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Supports et circulation des savoirs et des arts en Afrique et au-delà

Séance du 26 juin 2015, 11h à 13h
Site Raspail, salle 8, 105 bd Raspail 75006 Paris

- Andre Cicalo, King’s College London, Brazil Institute, Marie Curie IOF Research Fellow
From Public Amnesia to Public Heritage : slavery and black heritage in Rio de Janeiro’s monumental space

While the topic of race relations and material heritage have been scholarly analysed in Brazil, these two topics have seldom been object of an intersectional analysis. This talk will address the historical evolution of institutional approaches to slave and black heritage in the monumental city landscape of Rio de Janeiro. I will point out how the general lack of representation of Afro-Brazilian history over more than a century after slavery abolition (1888) is being notably redressed in the last decades. This fact, as I point out, is happening along with changes in race relations and racial politics in Brazil and with the archaeological discovery of a slave trade dockside in the port area of the city. Having said that, the different sets of reading of the diverse interests in this kind of heritage should be untangled and analysed. Some photographic material and sequences from my ethnographic documentary “Memory on the Edge of Oblivion” will be presented to support my talk.


André Cicalo is a Marie Curie Research Fellow at the King’s College of London (UK) and Universidade Federal Fluminense (Brazil). His project is an ethnographic study of how public slavery heritage is being presently built in Rio de Janeiro, in the framework of urban regeneration of the city’s port area. With a background in development and politics, Cicalo holds an MA in Anthropology of Development at the University of Sussex and a PhD in Social Anthropology with Visual Media at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. His past work has extensively dealt with race, racial inequalities, and affirmative action in Brazil. He authored the ethnographic monograph ‘Urban Encounters : Affirmative Action and Black Identities in Brazil’ (Palgrave Macmillan 2012) – LASA Prize 2013 (Brazil Section), several academic articles on this subject, and the documentary ‘Memories on the Edge of Oblivion’ (2008-2010), where he explores questions of forgetting and remembering of slavery in the port area of Rio de Janeiro. This film received the prize as best documentary at the Festival International du Film de Chercheurs en Sciences Humaines et Sociales of Lyon (2015).

A synopsis of the ethnographic documentary “Memory on the Edge of Oblivion : Forgetting and Remembering Slavery in Rio de Janeiro”

This film, shot in 2008, explores how memory of slavery intersects with life experience, black affirmation and urban reconversions in contemporary Rio de Janeiro. Despite the central place that Rio de Janeiro played in the Atlantic slave trade until the end of the 19th century, traces of this past have for long looked hidden in the urban landscape. This forgetting is not simply a random phenomenon, it also relates to the myth of racial democracy as an ideal that has actively tried to downplay racial inequalities in Brazil in the name of national mixture. Albeit little visible, the memories of a slave past are not deleted completely. They emerge ambiguously, but also powerfully, in the daily life of Tia Lúcia and Alder, the main characters of this film.