In 2016 I published my first book Afro-Paradise: Blackness, Violence and Performance in Brazil (University of Illinois Press). It is the result of over ten years of field research on Black experiences with state violence in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, and Black people's creative responses to this violence. It specifically chronicles the work of grassroots theater troupe Choque Cultural and the campaign Reaja ou Sera Mortx! (React or Die!/React or Be Killed!). I began collaborating with Choque Cultural on this project in 2003, and I have been working with Reaja since 2005. In this sense Afro-Paradise is an activist anthropology project that is the result of collaboration in the struggle to preserve Black life in Brazil and around the world.
Afro-Paradise chronicles Black experiences with police terror in Salvador Bahia and Black community responses to it. The focus of this discussion is the work of Reaja ou Sera Mortx! and their sustained work fighting against police killings torture, invasions, death squad murders and the prison system--in short, the landscape of anti-Black genocide in Brazil. I argue that aanti-Black state violence is, in itself, a performance -- a scenario of White supremacy/anti-Blackness that is replayed over and over through time and space. In Bahia, this performance is also caught up in the production of Bahia as a Black exotic space. Bahia as a tourist attraction and Bahia as a space of death and violence for Black people are two sides of the same coin.
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Afro-paradise is that paradoxical space between the consumption of black bodies (for pleasure, for entertainment, for production) and the economy of terror and death that anti-blackness produces transnationally. It is that which binds us and produces us and it is, fundamentally, a grand theatrical performance.
Alongside a discussion of the work of React or Die!, the book follows the theater production of Choque Cultural, a grassroots theater troupe that produced a play about anti-black violence in 2003. At the heart of Afro-Paradise is Choque Cultural's play "Stop to Think", a riveting and brilliant meditation on the performative and performatic realities of anti-Black violence in Brazil. As part of this book project, I recorded Choque Cultural's performance back in 2003. It is impossible to render the complexity of performance onto the written page. For this reason, I suggest watching the video of "Stop to Think" alongside reading the book as a supplemental part of the text:
During the 2016 Rio Olympics I did a Q&A on my book with University of Illinois Press. Here I talk about some of the background of the book, its relevance and the olympics.
In May 2016 I gave a book talk at Monkey Wrench Books in Austin, TX. Generously, KOOP Radio's People United program recorded the talk and archived it. I talk about Black struggle and police violence in Brazil, and its broader significance as it relates to Afro-Paradise. Listen here.
About this site This site is a meditation on this reality and an attempt to undo its dangerous effects. To that end, it is an anti-racist, anti-heterosexist, anti-hate website that recognizes that black people are the canaries in the mine. "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" - Martin Luther King.
This is my personal and professional website. All thoughts are my own but are up for debate and discussion.
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