In This Review

Afro-Brazilian Culture and Politics
Afro-Brazilian Culture and Politics
Edited by Henrik Kraay
M.E. Sharpe, 1998, 224 pp
A Bahian Counterpoint: Sugar, Tobacco, Casava, and Slavery in the Reconcavo, 1789-1860
A Bahian Counterpoint: Sugar, Tobacco, Casava, and Slavery in the Reconcavo, 1789-1860
By B. J. Barickman
Stanford University Press, 1998, 276 pp
The Go-Between File Messager: Photographs 1932-1962
The Go-Between File Messager: Photographs 1932-1962
By Pierre Verger
Distributed Art Publisher, 1998, 238 pp
Freedoms Given, Freedoms Won: Afro-Brazilians in Post-Abolition Sao Paulo and Salvador
Freedoms Given, Freedoms Won: Afro-Brazilians in Post-Abolition Sao Paulo and Salvador
By Kim D. Butler
Rutgers University Press, 1998, 306 pp

With an estimated 120 million people of African descent, Brazil is home to the world's largest population of the African diaspora. Emphasizing this group's resilient heritage, Kraay explores the complex relationship between African and European cultural influences in the Brazilian state of Bahia and its capital, Salvador, as well as discussing Afro-Brazilian identity and its differences from black American culture. For example, Brazilians recognize hundreds of intermediate categories between black and white and their definitions have changed over time. Kraay also examines Brazil's special mixture of races, classes, and cultures, from the role of the vibrant Afro-Bahian religion of Candombl‚ to Afro-Bahian political mobilization in the 1970s.

In a more historical work, Barickman has provided an intriguing account of slavery and agriculture in the Reconcavo, the region around Bahia's great Bay of All Saints and the city of Salvador. Barickman reveals a more complex social landscape than historians had suspected, showing how Brazil adapted agriculture to both overseas and local markets to provide slaves with an alternative to plantation life.

After the abolition of slavery in 1889, Bahia's African identity prevailed to protect its cultural pluralism. Butler's pathbreaking study contrasts the survival of this culture with the experience and political life of urban Afro-Brazilians in Sao Paulo after emancipation. She finds that Sao Paulo's Afro-Brazilians maintained a world parallel to the mainstream society, reinforcing an insular black identity, creating a vocal black press, and launching numerous political groups. Meanwhile, the extraordinary homoerotic photographs of the late Pierre Verger, who lived for many years in a Bahian slum and wrote some of the most important books on Bahian-African interaction and cultural expression, include unique images of all aspects of the culture as well as parallel images of ceremonies in West Africa.