Society for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
The term “good citizen” is widely used in contemporary Brazil to draw the discursive line between citizens and drug dealers which are defined as being enemy fighters. Expressing the necropolitics of contemporary Brazil, it separates the population into “good citizens” considered worth living and “villains” conferred the status of “living dead” (Mbembe 2003, 40) by the state. During my fieldwork (2017-2018) in a Brazilian jiu-jitsu (Bjj) club in the northern periphery of Rio de Janeiro, I found that the general racial and social connotation of the “good citizen” as the white middle-class male does not fit neatly with the local understanding of the “good citizen” as someone who has been given the opportunity to become something else than a drug trafficker by becoming part of a martial arts community.
The practice of Brazilian jiu-jitsu is reminiscent of what Saba Mahmood describes as the “specific set of procedures, techniques, and discourses through which highly specific ethical-moral subjects come to be formed” (Mahmood 2005, 28, as cited in Zigon 2007, p. 133). These “technologies of the self,” described by Foucault as realized through “certain modes of training and modification of individuals” (Foucault 1988, 18), made its practitioners being part of a specific group of Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners. In my presentation, I will discuss the anthropology of morality, embodiment, and masculinity to understand better the dynamics of a segment of Brazilian society that is in favor of conservative patriarchal values by analyzing the Bjj group’s embodied ceremonies.