Association for Political and Legal Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Different genres of popular music have long been associated with struggles for social justice across the globe, helping to mobilize people on a variety of concerns. The ways in which this is achieved are site-specific, engaging musicians and audiences in struggles that highlight the geographic emplacement and historicity of sociocultural processes in the larger context of globalization and interculturalism. Until its cooptation and transformation into an icon of Brazilianness in the mid-20th century, the popular genre of samba was a concrete and symbolic practice of Afro-Brazilian cultural resistance, enduring persecution by local police forces who arrested players and destroyed instruments on a regular basis. Today, the Brazilian samba is a contested cultural object, embroiled in complex ethno-racial discourses of both Afro-centric identity-politics and “melting pot”-style patriotic forms of nationalism. While these politics are not always evident abroad, samba has crossed many borders to reach an international stage, where social justice-oriented groups in disparate contexts and on different continents have taken up samba’s potential to mobilize people emotionally, physically, and politically: Rhythms of Resistance International uses street samba at political rallies, Indigenous peoples in Peru use it to build community and resist marginalization. Exploring the relationship between community samba, social justice, and intercultural exchange across borders political, social and cultural, this paper will address how diasporic music, activism, and embodied pedagogies intersect in a Canadian context, where a radical samba group has taken up Brazilian sounds to challenge global environmental degradation and the reification of racialized, gendered and class-based borders.