“…there is no way to pay back our historical debt to Africa.” (President Luis Inácio ‘Lula’ da Silva – President of Brazil)
Long before it was fashionable, the publication of C. L. R. James’s Black Jacobins (1938) established in the Americas the conceptual approach that would guide the embryonic research interest in the African Diaspora evident from the first half of the 20th century.
James’s seminal work moved the enslaved Africans who built much of the Atlantic world to the center of his narrative in the context of the circum-Atlantic as a space of historical and cultural productions that illuminates the mutual transformation of the diverse transnational, trans-imperial and transoceanic populations of the African Diaspora that Thompson (1983) and Gilroy (1993) referred to as the “Black Atlantic”. In his work, Gilroy employed the term “Black Atlantic” to describe the social, cultural and political space that emerged out of the experience of slavery, exile, oppression, exploitation, and struggle.
We invite scholars to rethink a new theoretical and historical cartography beyond Gilroy’s limited framework of the Black Atlantic anchored in the Anglophone Atlantic or the American branch of the African Diaspora. One of the most heavily traveled routes of the Atlantic during the slave trade was the dangerous passage that linked West Africa, the Angolan and Kongo coastal region with the Americas. In the space of two and a half centuries, an estimated 2 million African slaves were forcibly dispersed through this “middle passage” (and millions lost at sea) arriving mainly in Bahia and thus established Brazil as the main destination point for the largest population of Africans in the African Diaspora. The historical geography and the specifities of trajectory of African Diaspora in the South Atlantic led to the spirited Herskovits-Frazier debates during the first half of the 20th century. The study of the African Diaspora in the historical geography of the Americas has been reinvigorated in recent decades by a robust debate as scholars have shifted their inquiry from the explicit study of cultural “survival”, "hybridity" and “acculturation” towards an emphasis on placing Africans and their descendants at the center of their own histories. Going beyond the notion of cultural “survival” or “creolization”, scholars now explore different sites of power and resistance, gendered cartographies, memory, and the various social and cultural networks and institutions that Africans and their descendants created and developed, reflecting an array of cultural richness and diversity.
A number of scholars have reminded us (Kaching Tölöyan, 2007 and Colin Palmer, 2000) that the history of the African Diaspora and the history of racialization, its divergent trajectories, ideologies, structures, modes of being and belonging need to be carefully delineated and studied across the Black Atlantic. The special issue aims to explore the relationship between the African Diaspora populations and the locality of race in Brazil by examining the artistic, literary, musical, religious, cultural, political, and historical links that have cross-fertilized the Black Atlantic where meanings of ‘race’ have been interwoven with understandings of identity, belonging, citizenship, sexuality and gender. In more than one way, the special issue takes the earlier call by Paul Gilroy to “step back boldly into the past” in order to draw “a new map” of the Black Atlantic which would illuminate the linkages, networks, disjunctions, sense of collective consciousness, memory and cultural imagination among the African-descended populations in Brazil.
The Guest Editors encourage a range of contributions that critically examine African Diaspora in Brazil through a range of perspectives that touch on questions such as: given Brazil’s historical trajectory, how might we rethink the specificities of the African Diaspora in Brazil? How do we theorize the political and cultural practices of the African Diaspora populations in Brazil? What are its distinctive culturally constructed borders and conventions as conditioned by the specific topography of race in Brazil? How can notions of African Diaspora history and memory be mapped where race is denied in the national self-images of the country whose history was built on slavery and colonialism? What cultural resources, intellectual and artistic productions are deployed by Afro-Brazilians from the circum-Atlantic repertoire to shape their material and social circumstances? What kinds of structural, institutional, ideological and everyday mechanisms were constructed to demobilize and marginalize the African-descended populations in Brazil? What political and cultural practices are deployed by the Afro-Brazilian population to organizationally and strategically combat the social, racial and gender hierarchies of Brazilian society?
Prospective contributors are invited to send proposals for articles in the form of a 400-500 word abstract by December 30, 2010. Accepted proposals will be notified by January 30th, 2011. Authors of accepted proposals will be asked to submit articles in final form (in English) by August 30, 2011. Proposals should be submitted to the Guest Editors, indicated below, by e-mail as a Word attachment.
All communications regarding the special edition should be directed to the Guest Editors:
Fassil Demissie (Department of Public Policy Studies) DePaul University, firstname.lastname@example.org, and
Silvia Lorenso, (Department of Spanish and Portuguese), University of Texas, Austin, email@example.com.
Informal enquiries are most welcome, and the Guest Editors will be happy to discuss individual quires.