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About this book

In this co-edited volume, Gladys L. Mitchell-Walthour and Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman have invited contributors of African descent from the United States and Brazil to reflect on their multidimensional experiences in the field as researchers, collaborators, and allies to communities of color. Contributors promote an interdisciplinary perspective, as they represent the fields of sociology, political science, anthropology, and the humanities. They engage W.E.B. Du Bois' notion of 'second-sight,' which suggests that the unique positionality of Black researchers might provide them with advantages in their empirical observations and knowledge production. They expose the complex and contradictory efforts, discourses, and performances that Black researchers must use to implement and develop their community-centered research agenda. They illustrate that 'second-sight' is not inevitable but must be worked at and is sometimes not achieved in certain research and cultural contexts.

Table of Contents


Introduction: In Pursuit of Du Bois’s “Second-Sight” through Diasporic Dialogues

Introduction: In Pursuit of Du Bois’s “Second-Sight” through Diasporic Dialogues

In Souls of Black Folk, sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois elaborates on the notion of “double-consciousness,” a concept that captures how racial marginalization shapes the perspectives, experiences, and identity of blacks in American society. He characterizes blacks’ positionality as one marked by clashing dualities that create “two warring souls, two thoughts, two un-reconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body” (Du Bois 1903 [1996], 5). But he also notes that when this unique positionality is stimulated and directed, it can ultimately give way to heightened awareness and discovery, what he refers to as “second-sight.” Du Bois’s prolific and pioneering contribution to the social sciences, unmatched by those in his time or ours, is perhaps the best example of the manifestation of this “second-sight” (Morris 2015). His assertions about “double-consciousness” are cited profusely in interdisciplinary and international contexts, but his statements about “second-sight” have not garnered nearly as much attention despite their implications for black researchers’ knowledge production.
Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman, Gladys L. Mitchell-Walthour

Institutions as Gate-Keepers and Game-Changers


Chapter 1. Black Women’s Studies in the United States and Brazil: The Transnational Politics of Knowledge Production

I was first drawn to Brazil during my sophomore year in college as a result of an eye-opening presentation made by Joselina da Silva, a black Brazilian activist and scholar. She spoke about the political work black women were doing in Rio de Janeiro. Until that point, I had little to no knowledge of Africandescendant communities in Brazil and my curiosity was piqued. Over the past 20 years, my personal and professional endeavors have been focused on trying to better understand black women’s experiences in Brazil and also contributing to efforts to promote racial and gender justice, especially through my research and scholarly projects. As someone who conducts research and teaches courses on black communities in Brazil, other areas of Latin America, and the United States, as well as courses on gender, I often think comparatively about knowledge production in and about these different geographic spaces and ways to challenge the invisibility of black women, particularly in academic research. In this chapter, I reflect on the development of the field of black women’s studies in the United States and some of the challenges to increasing the production of scholarship focused on black women within the academy in Brazil. I also examine some of the problems associated with incorporating black Brazilian women’s experiences and writings into women’s studies in Brazil and black women’s studies in the United States.
Kia Lilly Caldwell

Chapter 2. The Genesis of the Race and Democracy in the Americas Project: The Project and Beyond

In 1986 K. C. Morrison and David Covin attended a conference of the Association of Caribbean Studies in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. For both, it was their first trip to Brazil. Although each was active in the National Conference of Black Political Scientists (NCOBPS), they had not met until earlier in the year when they presented papers on the same panels at both the National Council for Black Studies (NCBS) and the NCOBPS annual conferences. By the time they arrived in Salvador, they were fast friends. Neither spoke, read, wrote, or understood Portuguese. Nevertheless, within two days each found himself in the close company of Brazilians. Morrison was befriended by two young Afro-Brazilians, Antônio Rosário de Lima and Júlio Romário da Silva. De Lima was fluent in English and was self-taught in the language by listening to R & B records from the United States (his favorite artist was Sam Cooke), by listening to English language radio broadcasts, and by practicing on black tourists from the United States. Covin was befriended by Laís Morgan, a white Brazilian married to a black college professor from the United States. Over the course of several days both men were introduced to people and places they never would have had access to on their own.
David Covin

Chapter 3. Brokering Black Brazil or Fostering Global Citizenship? Global Engagement that Empowers Black Brazilian Communities

I waited somewhat impatiently in a perpetually long line to use the restroom at Sankofa African Bar & Restaurant in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, and when I glanced around, I saw two black women behind me whispering to each other and smiling. I later learned that one of the women was Brazilian and the other was African. Quite casually, one of them asked me (in Portuguese): “Where are you from? Are you from Brazil?” Before I could answer, the other smiled and chimed in: “See, I think she’s African, maybe from … Angola?” The other responded quickly: “Look, she has a long face, and that forehead.” The other interrupted: “But her lips (looked at my lips and frowned) are too … (shook her head no).” Curious about the interaction, I remained quiet and smiled coyly, refusing to speak in order not to reveal my accent and/or my identity. When the anticipation (and my discomfort with them deconstructing my facial features) was too much to bear, I revealed: “I’m from the United States.” To which one of the women said to the other: “See I told you! But, you (referring to me) look like you could be from here [Brazil].” This brief interaction alludes to what happens when diasporic groups meet: misidentifications may complicate coalition building, but expectations of solidarity and similarity are also suggestive of the possibilities of diasporic engagement.
Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman

Chapter 4. Didn’t Your Parents Like You?

Writing travel memories is not an easy task.1 Organizing ideas and emotions is challenging because it makes us relive some unpleasant experiences. At the same time, it allows us to relive some moments that passed faster than we would have liked. This text is not the result of a thorough and systematic study. It is not intended to be a sort of guide for other students. It is an unpretentious attempt to share some of the experiences I have had in the past twenty-four months, which includes two different periods: a short stay in the United States, and the period after my move to Portugal to study for a doctorate in African Studies. This chapter is an attempt to bring together experiences of racialization that I lived or witnessed on these trips from the point of view of my daily life as a Brazilian immigrant2 in a foreign country.
Mojana Vargas

RWB: Researching While Black and Female in Brazil


Chapter 5. A (Black) American Trapped in a (“Nonblack”) Brazilian Body: Reflections on Navigating Multiple Identities in International Fieldwork

Though qualitative researchers have examined the influence of their positionalities on their research in the United States, less is known about how such positionalities play out when conducting international race research. From October 2007 to October 2008, I conducted fieldwork in Governador Valadares (GV), Brazil, a small city in Minas Gerais, to examine the racial conceptions of 49 Brazilians who migrated to the United States and subsequently returned to Brazil. I aimed to learn how migration influenced these individuals’ understanding of racial classification, stratification, and relations in both countries. Furthermore, as GV has historically been Brazil’s largest emigrant-sending city to the United States, I wanted to explore if this extensive emigration and return migration to GV had also altered race relations there.1
Tiffany D. Joseph

Chapter 6. Guess Who’s Coming to Research? Reflections on Race, Class, Gender, and Power in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

I am often asked about how I developed an interest in paid domestic work,1 as I wrote both my master’s thesis and dissertation on the subject.2 Quite honestly, it was difficult not to be interested as a black woman researcher in Brazil. According to the most recent reports from the 2010 PNAD-IBGE, Brazil’s largest national household survey, over 7 million individuals, about 93 percent of which are women, are employed in paid domestic work. A 2011 study conducted by the Departmento Intersindical de Estatistica e Estudos Socioeconomicos (DIESSE) shows that nearly one-fifth (17 percent) of employed black women work in paid domestic positions in the largest metropolitan areas of Brazil. In terms of the racial makeup of black domestics in comparison to nonblacks, the distribution of women ranges from 97 percent in Salvador to 49 percent in São Paulo. Black women are significant, if not overwhelming, contributors to this labor market in all of Brazil’s largest municipalities.3
Jaira J. Harrington

Chapter 7. But You (Don’t) Look Like an African American: African Diaspora Looking Relations between Brazil and the United States

In November 2007 in São Paulo, Brazil, I attended a lecture by Fred Hampton Jr., the son of slain Black Panther Fred Hampton Sr. Hampton’s lecture was one of the many events about black culture, history, and politics that took place in São Paulo during November, or the month of black consciousness. I attended the lecture with Manoel and Christina, two Afro-Brazilians around my age who worked and studied in São Paulo. Christina’s mother also attended the event, but she arrived at the venue, a local community center, before we did. She had saved seats for us in the crowded space to ensure that we could all sit down to hear the lecture. I sat between Christina and her mother. After engaging in a series of small talk, Christina told her mother that I was from the United States and that I had come to Brazil to examine racial politics. On receiving this information, Christina’s mother touched my arm, pointing to my skin color, and said: “I wouldn’t think you were from the United States, you aren’t that dark (voce não é tão pretinha).” In referring to the relative lightness of my skin, Christina’s mother reflected the common belief in Brazil that Brazilians are of mixed race and African Americans,1 or US Americans in general, are racially singular. To her, the idea that African Americans are racially pure or singular would manifest itself in a phenotype of dark skin and coarse hair. Yet I, as an African American with light brown skin and curly hair seemed to fall in line more closely with her ideas of how Brazilians looked.
Reighan Gillam

Chapter 8. Changing Notions of Blackness in Field Research in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

In this chapter I examine how my notions of blackness were challenged as a black researcher conducting research in Salvador, Brazil. I have conducted research in Brasília, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro but solely focus on Salvador in this chapter. My research spanning a period of 11 years is about the role of racial identification, racism, and group identity on political behavior. In this chapter I focus on the period from 2004 to 2012, during which my research consisted of interviews with politicians about how they address racial issues during campaigns, survey interviews with Afro-Brazilians examining racial identification, racial attitudes, and political behavior, and a survey experiment with Afro-Brazilians studying whether racial and class frames impact support for racial or class policies. I also conducted in-depth interviews with Afro-Brazilians about black identity and affirmative action. In this chapter I do not analyze results from my research. Rather I focus on how I was challenged to analyze blackness more critically because of my lived experience as well as varying notions of blackness I witnessed living in Brazil while I conducted my research. Considering varying notions of blackness within one country is especially important to theories of the African diaspora where oftentimes there is an assumption about common experiences and interpretations of history. The lived experience as a black American researcher in Brazil allowed me to gain a broader understanding of what it means to be an African descendant in another part of the African diaspora. I also began thinking about new ways of analyzing racial politics in the United States when considering black Americans.
Gladys L. Mitchell-Walthour

Chapter 9. An African/Nigerian-American Studying Black-White Couples in Los Angeles and Rio de Janeiro

I moved to Los Angeles from Chicago in order to work with Edward Telles in the Sociology department at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). I knew that I wanted to study race relations in Brazil and would probably do research on affirmative action policies that had recently been implemented there targeting the poor as well as people of African descent. I had never been to Brazil, but was interested in the African diaspora in Latin America for a long time and had studied Portuguese for a semester at Harvard. I spent my first year at UCLA fulfilling Sociology department requirements as well as using my fluency in Spanish to learn Portuguese.
Chinyere Osuji

Black Brazilians’ Reflections in the United States: Myth of a Racial Radical Paradise


Chapter 10. Living the African American Way of Life—Impressions and Disillusions of an Afro-Brazilian Woman in the United States

Love at first sound. This is how I choose to describe how my journey as an Afro-Brazilian living abroad started. It probably started with a mix of sounds, such as the sound of the Christian hymns that I used to listen to growing up in a Baptist church, or with my participation in the church choir during which I used to dream about joining a choir like those on TV, or perhaps with my time listening to the Ray Charles songs that my father used to listen to at home. I cannot remember exactly where my contact with African American culture started, but I am absolutely sure that it was a sound that awakened in me a passion for a place that I did not know. I still remember the first time I heard some words in English; maybe it was not the first time I had heard them, but it was probably the first time I had paid attention to them. I was nine years old, growing up in a poor community in the city of São Paulo, Brazil. My family was hosting dinner for North American missionaries who were visiting our home church. When I heard those words, I fell in love with the language, and in future years it would take my imagination far away from my home and my reality. Learning English became my priority, and without financial resources, I self-taught myself by listening to music and translating songs from English to Portuguese with the help of an old dictionary. A few years later, still a young teenager, a new sound would make a difference in my life.
Daniela F. Gomes da Silva

Chapter 11. Increasing Resilience to Face Diversity: Race in Academic and Social Environments from Salvador to Los Angeles

It was two o’clock in the afternoon on a beautiful sunny Friday in 2011. After spending office hours with my adviser, I crossed the university campus on my way to the bus stop. There was a UCLA—University of California, Los Angeles—Police Department car parked ahead, with a police officer standing outside. As I passed by, he stopped me and asked if I was a student. For a moment I thought that I was getting an international stop and frisk by the Brazilian police. Between ironically laughing to myself and trying hard to keep the anger from showing in my eyes, I looked at the police officer, and instead of answering, I asked him: “What’s going on around here?” He told me that “they had a situation on campus,” and he was just checking (on me). We remained silent for a few seconds, looking at each other. I pretended that I did not understand his explanation for stopping me. The question “And why have you chosen to check on me instead of other (white) students around here?” was screaming in my head. My strategic silence and the fact that we were on UCLA campus probably created tension for him. He started showing embarrassment and hastily said “Never mind!” and drove away in the police car.
Lúcio Oliveira

Chapter 12. Far Beyond “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”: Impressions from an Afro-Latina Filmmaker and Activist in Philadelphia

In this chapter, I analyze my experience as an Afro-Latina activist and graduate film student, during my two years of residence in Philadelphia in the United States. I discuss my reflections about my expectations, experiences, and moments of connection with the African American and Afro-Latino community using the conceptual framework of transitory identity, as developed by sociologist Stuart Hall (1994) in his chapter “Cultural Identity and Diaspora.” This analysis alternates between important childhood and adolescent memories that shaped the formation of my black identity, and I rely principally on the medium of film to make these comparisons. The ultimate goal of this chapter is to illustrate the connections between Afro-Brazilians and African Americans and to broaden the discussion about the issues that should be addressed as global problems that are common to the entire African diaspora, propose solutions that can be replicated, as well as facilitate an ongoing dialogue between African descendants.
Gabriela Watson Aurazo

Conclusion: Toward a Future African Diasporic Approach to Research Diaspora

Black transnational engagement between researchers in Brazil and those in the United States adds one more layer to the “major dialogue shaping the cultures and politics of the Afro-Atlantic world” (Matory 2006, 153). Contrary to the notion that intellectual trends are guided by the whims of the “invisible hand” of the academy, there are cognitive orientations and perceived cultural commonalities that explain the origin and persistence of black researchers’ interests in their counterparts in the United States and Brazil. Beyond serving as a logical point of comparison, due to similar (though not identical) histories, their sense of shared political goals, racial commonalities, and solidarity against racism means that diasporic citizens engage in dialogues to monitor, analyze, and refine movements and programs in their own countries (Pereira 2013).
Gladys L. Mitchell-Walthour, Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman


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