Laughter Out of Place (Introduction, Ch. 1)

Get Started. It's Free
or sign up with your email address
Laughter Out of Place (Introduction, Ch. 1) by Mind Map: Laughter Out of Place (Introduction, Ch. 1)

1. Dark Humor and sarcasm

1.1. Goldstein uses dark humor in her book, much like people in favelas/shantytowns.

1.2. Felicidad Eterna

1.3. Another use of dark humor from Goldstein by referring to this favela as "Eternal Happiness" when in reality, happiness and laughter are clearly just a defense mechanism used to cope with and mask the brutal reality that people in the lower class are facing.

1.4. Humor/laughter is used as a way for residents to keep their anger and fear at bay. They laugh and spit into the face of reality where they are faced by suffering, sickness, chaos, injustice, violence, and abandonment.

1.4.1. "Interconnectedness between comedy... and suffering and tragedy." (63)

1.4.1.1. Behind humor, there is aggressiveness. "One group of scholars describes humor as a kind of homeostatic mechanism that allows for social strains and tensions to be expressed within a group, thus leading to a kind of “escape-valve” analysis" (50)

1.4.2. "Perhaps at times only partially or imperfectly, I found that humor, despite its grinning, Cheshire cat–like nature, nevertheless opened up a window onto the complicated consciousness of lives that were burdened by their place within the racial, class, gender, and sexual hierarchies that inform their social world. Despite the rigidness of these hierarchies and tightly woven webs of power, they were not strong enough to contain this laughter, nor the meanings disguised within it, as it spilled over into my work." (47)

1.4.3. Humor was described as a way to give voice to impoverished women, seeing as they were mostly illiterate, oppressed and didn't have direct opportunities for self expression.

1.4.3.1. "I sensed that because of the rigid and highly naturalized hierarchies that structured the lives of shantytown residents, their responses had to take place in a form not generally recognized." (77)

1.4.4. "Humor was often a survivalist response to the vicissitudes of life (Oring 1984; Koller 1988)" (49)

1.4.4.1. "Over time, the Rio that became most familiar to me was the one associated with Soneca’s laughter—a laughter that was genuine enough but that both masked and revealed the anger and sorrow at the kinds of everyday violence experienced by people like Glória and her family." (80)

1.5. Laughter Out of Place

1.5.1. Upper and middle class friends of Goldstein were perplexed by the laughter of a domestic worker. "They have watched the same evening soap opera, but rather than being moved to tears like her employer, the domestic worker is inspired to laughter. Because of such “laughter out of place,” these workers and their popular culture may be seen as a kind of “alien within” by these more powerful classes." (60)

1.6. Goldstein speaks on the humor of the ladies she was surrounded by at the favelas, making any outsider feel ill whilst everyone else was laughing. The only way to grasp this humor and emotional aesthetic requires entering the world of Brazil’s urban poor and feeling the sense of frustration and anomie that accompanies their often desperate political and economic situation.

2. Injustice and hierarchies

2.1. Being so poor and having no education, women in the favelas have no choice but to become domestic workers; not because they want to, but because they don't have a choice. This unfortunately limits the ability of female workers to resist gender oppression

2.1.1. "Humor is one of the fugitive forms of insubordination. Although I could not often see the discontent of these women directly, I found that I could hear it expressed, often meekly, sometimes boldly, through their laughter." (49)

2.2. Donna M. Goldestein shares that this book is about power relations and how they are experienced by the poor.

2.3. Trying to remain neutral as a woman may cost ones life in the favelas. Dominated by the police, gangs, men who feel as if they can transgress sexual boundaries as part of an acceptable cultural script, being judged by facial features, skin color, hair type, etc. Most of these women devote their lives to just surviving in the favelas.

2.3.1. Women in this ethnography come from a lineage of domestic workers. Their daughters are attempting to break from this tradition and are experiencing limited success in locating satisfactory alternative forms of employment.

3. Race, Gender, and Class Domination

3.1. Goldstein came to understand that the black humor used by the poor was also used against the wealthier classes.

3.1.1. "Humor can indeed, as Scott and Thompson argue, function as a weapon of the weak. But it is important to remember that laughter also falls within the arsenal of the powerful. In other words, humor, as an expression and deployment of (class) power, is potentially both conservative and liberatory." (51)

3.1.1.1. "Using the materials of its culture, humor offers splendid openings for the exercise--and control--of aggression". (34)

3.2. "The black-humored commentaries of the subordinated classes are windows into the sense of injustice oppressed peoples feel about their conditions. While those with power act out a theater of majesty, wealth, and domination, those with less power act out a “counter-theatre” of objection, defiance, and absurdity." (56)

3.3. Goldstein shares that the protagonists in her ethnography are at the bottom of the hierarchy, and it is almost impossible to find a way out due to oppression.

3.4. Class domination can be seen to extremes in favelas, from Gloria, who was a the bottom of the hierarchy and owned a small shack, to Isadora, who owned a lucrative bar and store inside her two-story brick home.

3.4.1. Although their homes were separated by only a few blocks, their economic situations represented the two extremes in Felicidade Eterna. They were very close friends, yet the inequality placed an enormous strain on their relationship.

3.4.2. "Despite the economic stress felt by almost everyone in Felicidade Eterna, every household had some kind of television and radio—varying in age, quality, and state of disrepair." (66)

3.4.3. Poverty and affluence can be seen shoulder to shoulder.

3.5. Habits of Class and Domination

3.5.1. Bourdieu, habitus: a historically structured, reproducing, and durable ordering that refers to the maintenance of a class-divided social structure. Taste is one of the mechanisms through which inequality, difference, and privilege are structured and embedded in one’s habitus, naturalizing schemes of perception. All individuals in a similar group or class acquire the same habitus.

3.5.1.1. "Taste is something that is acquired, yet certain aesthetic tastes and goods become legitimized, while others are delegitimized. In this way “taste” becomes a kind of literacy, which ultimately legitimizes social difference and one’s social orientation or “sense of place” in the world. Since taste is in fact arbitrary, it is best seen as the mechanism by which certain classes or groups gain and maintain power within the social order." (78)

3.5.2. "Gramsci’s (1971) idea of cultural hegemony refers to the system of attitudes, beliefs, and values that—through ideological control of the dominated classes, that is, through their manufactured consent—supports ruling-class domination. Hegemony, in a manner similar to habitus, hides or naturalizes the dominance of one economic class over another." (79)

3.5.3. Glória's, her friend's and her family's black humor may seem as something in "bad taste", yet as stated previously by Bourdieu, is a form of cultural and class capital that is hard to measure or describe. Just because one finds it in bad taste, doesn't make it "bad taste" humor.

3.6. The favelas are dominated by the police, gangs, men who feel as if they can transgress sexual boundaries as part of an acceptable cultural script, and one is judged by facial features, skin color, hair type, etc.

4. Donna M. Goldstein

4.1. Childhood

4.1.1. Daughter of Russian immigrants who moved to the U.S. Lived in a "run-down public housing project in Brooklyn, NY".

4.1.2. Remembers insistent laughter even though people surrounding her had lived through tough times.

4.1.3. Her neighbors were Holocaust survivors.

4.2. Return to Felicidade Eterna in 1995 after being away for almost years.

4.3. First Arrival in Brazil

4.3.1. At the end of 1990 to begin her dissertation research.

4.3.2. She arrived right around the New Year's celebration.

4.3.2.1. This celebration allows for various social classes and every conceivable religious group to get together and enjoy the warm evening along the beach. This celebration is filled with rituals that Goldstein was able to experience herself.

4.3.2.2. "That night, thousands of people enjoyed the New Year’s celebration in a moment of what at the time seemed near-perfect communitas (community). Despite the contradictions of class, violence, race, and gender that I later came to understand over the course of my field-work, this peaceful, composite image of untroubled fellowship remains with me to this day. But what initially appeared as a good omen to me—the diversity, sensuality, and harmony of this sweeping collection of people on the beach that night—I also quickly came to recognize as only a partial picture of Rio." (69)

4.3.3. It was hard for Goldstein to witness the obvious contrast of affluence and extreme poverty, shoulder to shoulder.

4.3.3.1. "Rio has long been known as a city of contrasts. Poverty, inequality, racism, and violence are everywhere, so pervasive that they are sometimes hard to see." (69)

4.4. Latin American scholar in training at Cornell University in 1980.

4.5. Scholar in Training

4.5.1. Spent her first summer in Mexico as a research assistant working for two professors, interviewing peasant farmers in the rural areas of Tabasco, Oaxaca, and Michoacán. The next spring she returned for a longer period of time to Tabasco, documenting the effects of a development project and the programmed collectivization on what was referred to then as the “status of women.”

4.5.2. She became absorbed in the political activism and solidarity movements of the 1980's at Cornell, specifically regarding US-Latin American relations.

4.5.3. Offered a research position in rural Ecuador in 1982, leading her to spend two years there and interviewing small-scale bean producers from three different class and ethnic origins in three distinct ecological zones.

4.5.4. Influenced by her Latin American colleagues talking about Brazil, she spent three months of 1988 in Brazil on an exploratory summer research expedition.

4.5.5. Inspired by the, in the time, current issues in Brazil, Goldstein shifted her research and spent a year working with two teams of AIDS prevention and education workers. Most of her time was spent conducting interviews with low-income women living in favelas and other impoverished neighborhoods.

4.5.6. In the end, she was inspired by the lives of the poor people who lived in favelas, and wanted to now more about the women who led these lives.

4.6. "Carnival as a ritual of inversion, where the poor and marginalized—and their accompanying aesthetic forms—temporarily take center stage and allow a critique of standard elite culture. It is a time when the world of the casa (home) and that of the rua (street) are inverted and members of the poorer classes don fantasias (costumes) of nobility while those in the wealthier classes parade in the streets without regard for bourgeois morality. It is a time when the rules and realities of the everyday world are forgotten and transgressed." Roberto Da Matta (74)

5. Quarto de Espejo

5.1. Book written by Carolina Maria de Jesus, poor black woman who lived in a Brazilian favela.

5.1.1. "1960- published her personal diary that documented everyday life and her struggle to survive and care for her children within the context of extreme poverty." (48)

5.1.2. Much of the popular culture of this period was oral culture, and ‘words fly away’” (48)

5.1.2.1. Diary gives us much needed perspective of life in the favelas.

6. Protagonists

6.1. Glória

6.1.1. When Goldstein first met Gloria in 1991, she was in charge of 14 children.

6.1.1.1. Biological

6.1.1.1.1. Soneca

6.1.1.1.2. Described as a great storyteller. As soon as Goldstein went back to Felicidade Eterna in 1995, Soneca told Goldstein about Zeca's death. "She held out the index finger of her right hand and drew a line across her neck while sticking out her tongue, throwing an eye-popping glance at the low ceiling. “Morreu e fedeu,” she declared. “He’s dead and decayed.”"(61)

6.1.1.1.3. Zeca

6.1.1.1.4. Félix

6.1.1.1.5. Tiago

6.1.1.1.6. Soneca

6.1.1.1.7. Filomena

6.1.1.1.8. Anita

6.1.1.2. Taken in

6.1.1.2.1. Nieces and nephews after her sister, Celina, passed away

6.1.1.2.2. Three of her former lovers' children, whom after the separation preferred to stay. with Gloria.

6.1.2. Glória and her immediate family represent he poorest end of the working classes.

6.1.3. When Gloria met Goldstein she used to clean houses, and Goldstein asked her if she could clean her apartment once a week. They developed a empregada-patroa (domestic worker–employer) relationship. After many invitations from Gloria to Goldstein to "accompany her home to her shack in Felicidade Eterna to see how a gente really live and think" (84), Goldstein accepted. Those visits became more and more common after the first, with Goldstein even sleeping at Gloria's "shack". Their relationship changed from empregada-patroa to anthropologist and primary informant. Gloria even symbolically "adopted" Goldstein, and introduced her as her "white daughter."

7. Carnaval/Carnival

7.1. A celebration lasting 4 days and 3 nights, where social rules are broken, class hierarchies are turned upside down, and the strictures governing sexuality are momentarily suspended.

7.2. In the end, nothing really changes for the poor after the carnival, even though they get to enjoy feeling like the top of the social hierarchy for 4 days and 3 nights.

7.3. Unfortunately, some people can't participate in the Carnival. Due to their economic standing, some are not able to afford the costumes required to participate in the event.

7.4. Brazilians take pride in this celebration, and it is what it is known for the best, yet Glória disagrees. "When it came down to “the truth” as Glória and her friends saw it, they felt that my everyday experiences in the shantytown, rather than Carnival, were the “real” story, the one they imagined people on the outside would not believe. So, in effect, my choice of research was, for better or worse, not to look at Carnival—that ephemeral yet partial truth—but rather to look at everyday life." (76)

7.4.1. "The everyday humor of Glória and her friends and family is in many ways carnivalesque. It makes fun of the wealthy, but it also pokes fun at the miserable circumstances in which they find themselves. It mocks the world and its madness and seems to be an unconscious masking of deep personal feelings that are too painful to deal with directly. It makes fun of dead, sexualized, and grotesque bodies and of the death of poor bodies." (76)

7.5. Brazil's race, gender and class injustices hide behind the mask of the Carnival.

8. History, Political Economy and Class Relations in Brazil

8.1. "Contemporary hierarchies of class, race, gender, violence, and sexuality are a product of history. One cannot comprehend the enormity of inequality in Brazil without having a sense of how capitalist expansion and imperialism have worked in historically patterned ways." (88)

8.2. Goldstein believes we should think about the world in terms of a Marxist perspective.

8.3. A Brief History of Brazil

8.3.1. In the 1500's Brazil was believed to be the home to between two and four million Native American inhabitants.

8.3.2. In 1538, Brazil became the largest slave economy in the world, trading African slaves for Brazilian sugar.

8.3.2.1. Gut Marxism: "anthropologists and other scholars who generally feel deeply about the world situation and hold that it conforms broadly to Marx’s theories of political economy and class conflict. In my own case, I still find a Marxist perspective good to think with." (89)

8.3.3. 16th and 17th centuries: cattle raising grew in importance to become sugar’s counterpart.

8.3.4. Early 1700s: Brazil also became a world leader in gold and diamond production. As with sugar production, the gold and diamond mines were dependent on African slave labor.

8.3.5. Brazil didn't develop a diversified economy, remaining export- oriented with a firmly intact feudal landowning system.

8.3.6. 1815: Dom João VI declared the Estado do Brasil an equal partner with the United Kingdom of Portugal.

8.3.7. 1821: Dom Pedro I declared Brazil’s independence from Portugal.

8.3.8. 1830-1870: the Brazilian elite was divided into three groups, which had different opinions about the basic principles by which Brazil should be governed.

8.3.8.1. Absolutists

8.3.8.2. Moderate Liberals

8.3.8.2.1. Supporters of the Brazilian monarchy and they supported Pedro II. They believed that Brazil should remain an empire totally independent of Portugal.

8.3.8.2.2. In favor of a united empire of Brazil and Portugal; they favored the return of Pedro I.

8.3.8.3. Exaltados

8.3.8.3.1. Favored a republic and greater provincial autonomy, some even going so far as to promote independence.

8.3.9. Ending of slave trade in 1853.

8.3.9.1. 1871: The Law of the Free Womb freed children of slave women upon reaching the age of twenty-one. Brazil was the last of all colonies to officially abolish slavery, finally doing so in 1888, with the passage of the Golden Law.

8.3.10. In 1865, Brazil went to war with Paraguay and depended on slaves to carry out the bulk of the fighting, an event that hastened Brazil’s incrementalist approach to the final abolition of slavery.

8.3.11. 1888: Abolishment of slavery with the passage of the Golden Law.

8.3.12. 1880-1890: Brazil became a coffee production leader.

8.3.13. 1930s: São Paulo emerged as one of the most economically advanced regions in the country.

8.3.14. By the 1940s, the state of São Paulo became one of the “most impressive manufacturing capabilities of anywhere in Latin America” (Wood and Carvalho 1988:55).

8.3.15. 1964-1984: Brazilian politics was dominated by a series of military dictators, some of who sought the return of a democratic government, and some who were against it.

8.3.16. "During the 1970s and concurrent with a repressive military dictatorship, Brazil appeared to be experiencing a kind of economic miracle. With financial aid from the United States and diversification in agro-industry, a series of standard economic indicators pointed to absolute economic growth." (97)

8.3.16.1. Toward the end it became clear that there would be an eventual return to political democracy.

8.3.17. 1970s: Cardoso constitutes Plano Real, which had a goal to stabilize currency and control inflation.

8.3.18. "Buarque suggests that Brazil is currently living a form of social apartheid and that the nation needs, ultimately, to reinvent itself in order to surpass its unique history of" (99)