Introduction & Chapter One

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Introduction & Chapter One by Mind Map: Introduction & Chapter One

1. Donna M. Goldstein never imagined she would use humor as one of the consolidating themes of an ethnography seeking to chart the complex intersections among the hierarchies of race, class, gender and sexuality at work within poverty stricken communities in Rio de Janeiro.

2. Everywhere I turned I seemed to hear laughter. This humor was kind of running commentary about the political and economic structures that made up the context within which the people of Rio's shantytowns made their lives- an indirect dialogue, sometimes critical, often ambivalent, always hidden, about the contradictions of poverty in the midst of late capitalism.

3. I found that humor, despite its grinning Cheshire cat-like nature, nevertheless open 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.

4. First Arrival

4.1. I arrived to Brazil to begin my dissertation research at the very end of 1990, just in time for the New Year celebration. 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. Such contrasting images and experiences obviously complicated my own picture of the marvelous city.

5. Scholar in Training

5.1. She started off as a Latin Americanist scholar in training. She was a student in Cornell University and spent her first summer in Mexico as a research assistant working for two professors.

5.1.1. As an undergraduate student, she became absorbed in the political activism and solidarity movements of the early 1980's. She vowed she would never get seduced by Rio De Janeiro because os many people had already warned her of its charms and how difficult it would be to resist them.

6. Carnival: The Ephemerality of Laughter and Forgetting

6.1. In 1991 she got a copy of Alma Guillermoprieto's book Samba, a moving, close-up journalistic account of the Mangueira samba school. Inspired, she sustained a curiosity about people living in shantytowns, and women in particular.

6.1.1. She craved more knowledge of what Rio was like beyond the days of Carnival

6.2. Anthropologists and others have long argued that Carnival is central to Brazilian consciousness. Carnival is a celebration that is not unique to Brazil. It is a looking glass image through which Brazilians define themselves and by which they present themselves to the world.

6.2.1. Recognizing the transformative limits of Carnival, Stam suggests that other aspects of Brazilian culture- embedded in art, literature, and film as well as everyday life- nevertheless exhibit carnivalesque aesthetic forms. Raises some old and some new questions. It could be argued that Carnival may well reinforce the dominant social structure simply because the inversions that takes place during that week are temporary and ultimately take place online with elite approval.

6.3. She wanted to find out how the working poor experienced living within the social apartheid that characterized Rio, how they understood it, how they tolerated it, and even, at times, made fun of it.

7. Habits of Class and Domination

7.1. Laughter reveals the fault lines in social relations.

7.1.1. The carnivalesque laughter- the black humor- of Gloria and her friends may appear to the reader as just another example of "bad taste." Such humor begs for some kind of analysis, an understanding that can be achieved only by knowing intimately what the lives of people in these classes like from their own perspective.

7.2. She had long been convinced of the applicability to Brazil of Pierre Bourdieu's analysis of class and culture in France, especially of how concentrations of economic and cultural capital lead to unequal levels of political capital and through an elaborate symbolic struggle between classes, to a legitimation of social differences.

7.2.1. Bourdieu argues that the struggle between classes over the appropriation of economic and cultural goods also becomes a symbolic struggle to appropriate distinctive signs. Certain aesthetic tastes and goods become legitimized, while others are delegitimized.

7.3. Although it may seem that humor is one of those depoliticized projects that cannot possibly link up to a broader political landscape, it is in fact a window that is key to understanding how people experience their lives; it shows how the downtrodden perceive the hierarchies in which they are embedded.

8. Writing Ethnography, Writing Poverty

8.1. Her choice reflected a combination of youthful idealism and naivete, combined with privileged guilt and an abundance of anthropological curiosity.

8.1.1. She believes that it is still possible to capture something distinct about the lives of others and to represent those lives in a respectful and careful manner so that in the cases where is less chance for groups of people to speak and and be heard, somebody might act as a scribe or witness.

8.2. Many cultural anthropologists are still struggling with this legacy, still attempting to define the parameters of what makes for a reasonable or even legitimate intellectual project.

8.3. Scheper- Hughe's ethnographic masterpiece Death without Weeping begins to chart a problematic territory, sometimes referred to as a kind of political economy of the emotions.

8.3.1. She maps out the context of extreme poverty and everyday violence that structures the lives of sugarcane workers in Northern Brazil.