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Visiting the Living Museum: Brazilian Roots Tourism and the Emancipatory Possible

Villada, Diego (2018) Visiting the Living Museum: Brazilian Roots Tourism and the Emancipatory Possible. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation focuses on the intersection of Latin American studies, tourism, and performance in the northeastern state of Bahia, Brazil. I examine the generative outcomes associated with Brazilian roots tourism performance. Brazil is a unique case in the study of roots tourism –travel undertaken in order to connect with identity based on origin or homeland— because members of the African diaspora travel there to connect with their African identity, even if their ancestry is not Brazilian. The northeastern state of Bahia is considered to be a “Black Mecca” or “Black Rome,” because it is promoted by tourism agencies as the most Afro-centric place in the hemisphere. Roots tourism to Brazil, especially by US-African-Americans, has been implicated in the perpetuation of essentializing notions of Black-ness / African-ness. My argument is that even though hemispheric hegemonic relationships cannot be undone through transnational travel alone, performance, with its slipperiness, provides enough wiggle room and cultural agency to possibly provide emancipatory experiences for some or all of the participants within the scenario of a tourism encounter. The emancipatory possible is my term for utopian possibilities as a result of engaging in roots tourism. This argument is explored through two case studies based on performance ethnography fieldwork in Bahia during the summer of 2016. The first case study features a group of US-African-American young women on a trip of empowerment and self-discovery to the city of Salvador. The second case study features the renown Festa da Boa Morte (Festival of Good Death), a public festival sponsored by the Sisterhood of Good Death –a Catholic lay organization of Afro-Brazilian women of advanced years— in the town of Cachoeira. An exploration of the staged authenticity of tourism encounters and the implications of digital ethnography and storytelling are also examined in relation to the emancipatory possible. This project promotes the idea that the emancipatory possible exists on a spectrum and thus it can be increased through the deployment of strategies such as: making staged authenticity visible, engaging as deeply as possible in a porous event, and having that engagement be through body-kinesthetic means.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Villada, Diegodvillada1@gmail.comdiv70000-0002-0441-4011
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairJackson-Schebetta,
Committee MemberGranshaw,
Committee MemberGeorge,
Committee MemberJosten,
Date: 28 June 2018
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 9 April 2018
Approval Date: 28 June 2018
Submission Date: 13 April 2018
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 303
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Theater Arts
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Latin American Studies Roots Tourism African Diaspora Performance Brazil
Date Deposited: 28 Jun 2018 19:43
Last Modified: 28 Jun 2018 19:43

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