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Conversations with Latin American Authors: Africanness in Action

November 11 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm

Location: LIVE-STREAMED HERE - Map Link

Stanford CLAS, UC Davis’ Hemispheric Institute on the Americas & SJSU’s Department of World Languages and Literatures present the Conversations with Latin American Authors series: Africanness in Action: Essentialism and Musical Imaginations of Africa in Brazil

Author Talk By: Juan Diego Díaz, Assistant Professor, UC Davis

Comments by: Juan Eduardo Wolf, Associate Professor, University of Oregon

Book abstract: When people think of African music, the first ideas that come to mind are often of rhythm, drums, and dancing. These perceptions are rooted in emblematic African and African-derived genres such as West African drumming, funk, salsa, or samba and, more importantly, essentialized notions about Africa which have been fueled over centuries of contact between the “West,” Africa, and the African diaspora. These notions, of course, reduce and often portray Africa and the diaspora as primitive, exotic, and monolithic. In Africanness in Action, author Juan Diego Díaz explores this dynamic through the perspectives of Black musicians in Bahia, Brazil, a site imagined by many as a diasporic epicenter of African survivals and purity. Black musicians from Bahia, Díaz argues, assert Afro-Brazilian identities, promote social change, and critique racial inequality by creatively engaging essentialized tropes about African music and culture. Instead of reproducing these notions, musicians demonstrate agency by strategically emphasizing or downplaying them.

About the Speakers: Juan Diego Díaz is assistant professor of ethnomusicology at the University of California, Davis. He is interested in how African diasporic musics circulate and transform across the Atlantic and how they serve individuals and communities in identity formation. The main focus of this work has been in Brazil and Ghana. His book Africanness in Action: Essentialism and Musical Imaginations of Africa in Bahia (OUP, 2021) focuses on how musicians from Bahia, Brazil understand and negotiate essentialist notions about African music and culture. He has also studied the music of the descendants of freed enslaved Africans who resettled from Brazil to West Africa during the nineteenth century. This research has produced a book called Tabom Voices: A History of the Ghanaian Afro-Brazilian Community in their Own Words (2016) and the documentary film “Tabom in Bahia” (2017). He is also a long-term Capoeira Angola practitioner and has led capoeira, berimbau, and samba ensembles.  

Juan Eduardo Wolf is associate professor of ethnomusicology in the School of Music and Dance at the University of Oregon. He also serves as a core faculty member in the university’s Folklore and Public Culture program. His 2019 ethnography, Styling Blackness in Chile: Music and Dance in the African Diaspora (IUP), documents and analyzes different music-dance expressions performed by Afro-descendant individuals and organizations in Arica, Chile. He argues that these performances attempt to create relationships with other types of performers, a process called “styling,” in response to various social attitudes towards Blackness. More recently, his research focuses on the ways music-dance expressions of Afro-descendant and Indigenous communities in the Andes, Amazon, and the Caribbean can challenge coloniality’s narratives of erasure and progress.

Livestream: https://tinyurl.com/africannessinaction 

Event funded by the U.S. Dept of Education Title VI NRC. 


General Public
UC Davis' Hemispheric Institute on the Americas, SJSU's Department of World Languages and Literatures
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November 11, 2021, 3:30 pm