"I'll Samba Someplace Else": Constructing Identity and Neighborhood in São Paulo, 1930s-1980s Restricted; Files Only

Andrew G. Britt (Summer 2018)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/pr76f3467?locale=en


“‘I’ll Samba Someplace Else’” charts the interconnected histories of three São Paulo neighborhoods constructed as “Japanese” Liberdade, “Italian” Bexiga, and “Afro” Brasilândia over the middle of the twentieth century. Today a cosmopolitan, global metropolis, the city of São Paulo began its meteoric growth in the late nineteenth century with an influx of formerly-enslaved Afro-descendants and immigrants from Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. City planner-turned-mayor Francisco Prestes Maia (terms 1938-’45 and 1961-’65) ushered in a new phase of São Paulo’s development. Prestes Maia’s center-city redevelopment projects constructed new avenues, raised property values, and dislocated predominantly Afro-descendants from Liberdade and Bexiga, two of the city’s historic hubs of Afro-descendent settlement. Dislocated residents migrated to the city’s geographical margins, where they partnered with regional migrants in the construction of new neighborhoods like Brasilândia independent of official city planners. Despite the multiethnic resident populations of these neighborhoods, by the 1980s their racialized/ethnicized identities as “Japanese” Liberdade, “Italian” Bexiga, and “Afro” Brasilândia had become fixed in material space as well as popular and official discourse.

Based on archival research, oral history, and historical geographic information systems, my research shows that neighborhoods marked with ethnoracial identities are produced contingently, despite ethnoracial diversity, and through an array of official and unofficial spatial practices. From the 1930s through the 1980s, official city planners (employed by the state or real estate firms) and informal planners (local residents) engaged in contested redevelopment projects that remade the built and natural environments of these three neighborhoods along with the ethnoracialized identities associated with them. Practices of demolition, naming places, and producing roadways dislocated Afro-descendent populations from city-center neighborhoods and razed spaces with significant historical and contemporary connections to enslavement, abolition, and black self-determination. Those same practices paved the way for the construction of two whitened, immigrant neighborhoods in Liberdade and Bexiga. The making of identity and neighborhood in Brazil’s most populous, ethnoracially-diverse city details how the attachment of race/ethnicity to place contributes to identity formation as well as the reproduction of spatial and ethnoracial inequities over time.

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION: Positioning Someplace Else 

Chapter One. From Slavery to Avenues      

Chapter Two. Spatial Projects of Forgetting    

Chapter Three. Vila Brasilândia and Geographies of Ethnoracial Mixture      

Chapter Four. Making a Marked Margin: Brasilândia as “Little Africa”      

Chapter Five. Constructions of Ethnoracial Space: Making “Japanese” Liberdade and “Italian” Bexiga     

CONCLUSION: “Asphalt Has Today Covered Our Ground”     


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