The Way We Were
The Way We Were
Brazil in the African American Roots Tourist Gaze
This chapter examines the dominant African American roots tourist gaze on Brazil. Contrasting the discourse of the tourists, as expressed in ethnographic interviews, with the representations found in various textual and audiovisual sources, such as documentary films, books, newspaper articles, and tourism promotional materials, the chapter examines the three major intersecting tropes that inform and sustain this gaze: the trope of Bahia as a “closer Africa” and a place where African Americans can find their past; the trope of the “happy native,” or the perception that, because Afro-Brazilians supposedly inhabit the African American past, they are imagined to be essentially more culturally fulfilled than African Americans; and the trope of “black evolution,” which defines the “Africanness” of Afro-Brazilians as an earlier stage in the unidirectional path toward a modern form of blackness, one supposedly already reached by African Americans. In this view, Afro-Brazilians enjoy abundant African tradition, but have yet to achieve black modernity, and should therefore look up to African Americans for guidance.
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