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The Carnavalização of São João: Forrós, Sambas and Festive Interventions during Bahia, Brazil's festas juninas

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This article explores the neighbourhood-based samba practices of working class Afro-Brazilians during the festas juninas (June Festivals) in Bahia, Brazil. In contrast to Bahia's famous Carnival, a recognised site for activism, the festas juninas appear apolitical, seeming to lack overt resistance to colour-based inequities that persist in Brazil despite national discourses of mestiçagem (mixing) and racial democracy. In recent years, however, June samba has (re-)emerged as a means for marginalised people to assert belonging in June events and festival narratives from which they have been excluded. Their activism draws on tactics used by Bahia's afro-centric activist carnival organisations, but with important differences. Most notably, rather than placing ‘Africa’ at the centre of their interventions, June samba participants express new notions of Black Bahian subjectivity through the critically informed embrace of local Afro-diasporic traditions—especially a recently recognised UNESCO ‘masterpiece’ known as samba de roda—and more cosmopolitan musical sensibilities.
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Keywords: Afro-diasporic performance; Bahia; Black Identity; Brazil; Cultural Politics; Salvador; Samba; São João

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2012

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