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Spelman College

Publication Date

Fall 2014

Program Name

Brazil: Social Justice and Sustainable Development

Abstract

Present-day Brazilian society presents a disproportionate number of economic, social and political challenges for Black women. The phenomenon of this structural inequality has causes that are rooted deep in the history of Brazil, and is built upon the foundation lain by slavery, resulting in the economic prosperity of the elite that was built upon the foundation of the labor provided by people of color. The effects of colonization and the profitable slave trade that ensued continue to contribute still, to the plight of people of color in general, though the focus of this project will be on the effects these historic institutions continue to have on Black women in Salvador, Bahia, in specific. The context of the various struggles of these women is often characterized by the intersectionality of their varying oppressions, which are largely propagated through systems of structural and cultural violence. These different types of violence promote sentiments of inferiority among Black people; they strip an entire race of black people of pride in their culture, their identities and their physical aesthetics. By studying closely the stories and political struggles of three women in Salvador, Bahia, in addition to actively participating as a visiting member of Salvadorian society, I will analyze the ways in which hair helps to foster and promote a sense of pride in Black identity while combatting the rejection and oppression of Black people, aesthetic and culture in Brazilian society. The conclusion of my study shows, amongst my subjects, a strong and resilient connection between the choice to embrace, rather than to alter their “cabelo crespo” and their conscious battle against the multiple oppressions constructed within Brazilian society. I have learned that the process of identity construction is a complex ideal that cannot be limited, simply to natural hair, but in the same way, it must be noted that for some self-identified Black women, embracing their natural “cabelo crespo” was, indeed, a major part of that process of identity construction. In the study of these three, self-identified Black women, hair is a part of identity that is deeper than fashion, but rather, is worn as a banner of their negritude.

Disciplines

Arts and Humanities | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Latin American Studies | Latina/o Studies | Other Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Women's Studies

 

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