Writing Brazilian Culture

  • Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Part of the New Directions in Latino American Cultures book series (NDLAC)


In Casa-Grande e Senzala (The Plantation Manor and the Slave Barracks, 1933),1 Gilberto Freyre casts the intimate contact between masters and slaves as the origin for Brazilian “hybridity.” Because he emphasizes the “cultural” and “atmospheric” transmission of identity his analysis has been widely embraced as a progressive departure from eugenicist interpretations of national character.2 What critics have failed to see is that Freyre employs these nonbiological forms of assimilation to produce a symbolically Africanized, genetically white figure as the prototype for “interracial” synthesis. This chapter shows how Freyrean hybridity proffers an ultimately exclusionary brand of assimilation that constitutes the plantation master, or the figure who emblematizes that identity, as the amalgamation of both terms of the dialectic of Brazilian culture. As Monica Kaup and Debra Rosenthal show, to utter “We are creole” is implicitly to be situated in the domain of Austin’s linguistic performative (89). Accordingly, in my reading of Freyre’s discussion of the writing process, I address his substitution of biological race “mixture” with mimetic mestiçagem, conceptualizing his text as a speech-act that produces a particular form of mestiçagem as it describes it.


African Descent Plantation Manor Brazilian Society African Culture Oral Information 
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Works Cited

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Copyright information

© Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond 2005

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  • Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond

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