Author Archives: Marcel Elkouri

Lessons Learned

I’ve been really grateful that I’ve been able to be a member of this course. I thought that moving so far from home would mean spending long periods of time without hearing my own languages being spoken in public, and yet every lecture I got to see representation of my culture being discussed among students. It’s been amazing, and I’ve learned a ridiculous amount of information, but some major concepts have really stuck with me.

  • The Origins of a Mixed Population & the Racial Democracy Fallacy
    I knew coming in that Brazil had a diverse population, but this course really opened my eyes to an issue I was otherwise kept away from. How and why Portugal was able to import so many slaves, and the lasting impact their presence had in Brazil is one of the most crucial concepts someone could possibly learn from this class. This idea of a Racial Democracy wrecks havoc on society, and serves to disguise major ongoing issues that burden the lives of so many Brazilians today. On a personal note, I did some research and found out that my great-grandparents came to Brazil from Italy…right around the time of the Branqueamento. Yikes!
  • Gender Dynamics
    I’m glad I jumped on Beyond Carnival as fast as I did. Homosexuality isn’t really a subject to chat about over dinner, but I always knew that Brazil’s LGBT+ population was there. This book gave me such a great way to not only learn about the history of gay men, but also how masculinity was valued in Brazilian culture. On the opposite end, Marina’s I.S. on Martyrdom and Maternalism was so interesting, and drew a spotlight onto women’s roles in Brazilian society. Choosing my own book and having her knowledge in the classroom helped create a full image of gender in Brazil.
  • Culture of the Favelas
    I could only ever hear stories about the Favelas, and know basic facts about how they’re structured, but now I feel like I could talk freely about the culture within these neighborhoods.  This part of the course really drove home the need to address income and racial inequality in Brazil, along with geographic barriers. Pat yourself on the back for free health care, but that doesn’t matter if a mass portion of your population can’t even access it. It doesn’t make sense to talk about Brazil without addressing this glaring division in cities, and I’m glad we were able to explore it throughly.

When visiting Brazil, I would just alternate between farmland and cities, just visiting my family. I didn’t know enough about the actual ongoing issues in the country. This course really does mean a lot to me, as it helped resolve questions I’ve had about Brazil that no one was able to answer for me. I’ve truly learned so much, and really appreciate everyone’s contributions in helping each other learn more about Brazil.

Até logo gente.

Wasteland/Lixo Extraordinário – Discussion Questions

  • In Portuguese, the film is known as Lixo Extraordinário, or Extraordinary Garbage. By creating an entirely different name for an English speaking audience, how is the film altering its portrayal of Brazilians for a global audience?

Referring to the film as Extraordinary Garbage creates a very different mindset for how the film is portraying the workers. The oxymoron used implies that though garbage is perceived as filthy and useless, there are wonderful and extraordinary people working in the landfill. It paints the workers in a much more positive tone. Wasteland immediately triggers a response of a weakened landscape, filled with useless material. It paints a much more hopeless and bleak situation for the workers, which may work to exploit their situation and cause the final portion of the film to be much more dramatic and unexpected.

  • Why does the film lack opinions and interviews from middle class Brazilians directly?

Though negative reactions from others are occasionally mentioned by individuals  from the Wasteland, no direct communication is documented between Vik Muniz and upper-class Brazilians. This may be an assumption that all viewers of the film enter with preconceived stereotypes that working with trash is carries negative connotations. It speaks to who this film was truly made for. Though it benefits and improves the lives of those working in Jardim Gramacho, not directly speaking to other Brazilians implies that this film was created to show upper-class individuals the lives of those below them.

Living With The Effects of Zika: Culture Post

Though the spread of Zika has decreased significantly since its initial outbreak in 2015, many Brazilians are still struggling with supporting children born with disabilities due to the illness, especially in favelas. In Recife, Maria De Fátima dos Santos cares for her one and a half year old daughter Eduarda Vitória. Though efforts by the Brazilian government greatly curbed the spread of Zika, some mosquitoes still survived, one biting Maria during her pregnancy. Eduarda was born with various disabilities, including microcephaly, digestion issues, reoccurring seizures, and impaired vision. Her medication is stored in a plastic bag within a bottle, tied to a pole. This prevents rats from stealing it.

Both Maria and her husband Paulo Rogério Cavalcanti de Araújo are unemployed, and receive 880 reais (about $225) monthly from the government. Welfare programs in Brazil lack support to Brazilian families in favelas, as formula was no longer sent to the family once Eduarda turned a year old. Clinics took months to schedule an appointment to get Eduarda glasses, but then failed to provide her with braces that fit her arms and legs. Physical therapy for the child is hard to get, as it is a two-and-a-half-hour walk, or thirty minutes by paying the bus fare. Maria still struggles to get the support needed to take care of her child, but is hopeful for the future.

Coverage of this event by The New York Times, though in a through attempt to be objective, still somewhat sensationalizes the problems faced by those in favelas. Emotional terms such as “cope” and “struggle” are used throughout the article, and a section on Maria’s past focuses on her time as a drug addict and prostitute. Though it’s all factual, it feels as though the issues she faces are somewhat glorified for an American audience. Though this may be an attempt to draw international attention to the issues faced by millions living in Brazilian favelas.

In combination with Waste Land / Lixo Extraordinário and Ben Penglase’s Living with Insecurity in a Brazilian Favela, this article provides a current example of the poverty many Brazilians face. Penglase’s work provides a more indepth look at what goes on beyond Maria’s household. Both discuss the issues of drug trafficking and inequality impacting those living in favelas, but Penglase furthers this discussion by examining the friendships and support systems formed around communities with shared struggles. Waste Land continues this exposure of communities in favelas and the hope for a better future by interviewing workers at Jardim Gramacho. These interactions between those in Brazil’s discarded communities add to our own analysis of how Brazilians form their own identities in their communities, race and class inequality, and the socioeconomic structure of Brazil’s welfare systems.

Source + 360 video of Maria’s home:

Class Notes April 12th

In class on Thursday, April 12th, Jack presented to the class his research on Brazilian prisons. He explained how citizens residing in favella’s are unfairly targeted and imprisoned for minor crimes, overcrowding the Brazilian prision system. It reflected the current issue of Lula’s imprisonment and how he’s being kept away from such conditions, and provided an introductions into the day’s major discussions about race in Brazil.

Nasua introduced her book Pretty Modern: Beauty, Sex, and Plastic Surgery in Brazil by Alexander Edmonds. She covered how Edmonds’ research focuses specifically on how beauty functions as its own factor in society, leaving widespread impacts on how Brazilian women identify themselves. There was an ideal body type, one that had black and white features, though predominantly European in the face. One’s body going through plastic surgery (plástica) was a form of therapy, as some surgeons such as Ivo Pitanguy describe. However, Nasua pointed out the dangerous implications of these practices, including how they directly contradict they ideal of a “racial democracy”. There is an idea that only portions of black bodies are truly acceptable, and for darker skinned women to be more socially accepted as “beautiful”, they must alleviate their “errors” of looking poor, and instead using surgery. This is crucial in understanding Brazilian society and the delusion of assuming that all races are equal when they are clearly divided.

Jackson was able to dive deeper into Brazilian perceptions on race in his presentation of Pigmentocracies: Ethnicity, Race, and Color in Latin America by Edward Telles. The book was more of a scientific report, explain how Brazilian’s identified themselves racially and how others perceived them. It included a history of how race has changed over time, altering how Brazilians have identified their race.  Though the book had some discrepancies, such as a small sample size, it still provides a personal look into the world of racial identify.

All these topics tie into the major theme of the reading; how has beauty standards and the growth of plástica emerged as a source of identification for Brazilians? Alexander Edmonds returns in today’s coverage of Brazilian bodies in this article ‘The Poor Have The Right to Be Beautiful’: Cosmetic Surgery in Neoliberal Brazil.  He explains how plastic surgery has been reinterpreted as a therapeutic practice and serves as a way to “normalize” citizens, especially the poor. Because of the free healthcare that allows anyone to get plastic surgery, it’s prominence has grown dramatically. It’s established a mindset of bodies serving as a representation of one’s entire identity, and can be seen as a way to alleviate citizens from poverty. This has serious historical implications for how Brazilians identify who they are, how people can use science to change their identities, and how Brazilians have begun to categorize themselves beyond race and class, and into bodies.


Some key terms to remember from this seminar are:

  • Favella: Low income slums surrounding major Brazilian cities
  • Mestiçagem: Mixing and variety of races in Brazil
  •  Ethically Ambiguous: Being able to pass as different races, which can be both a hindrance and an advantage.
  • Plástica: Slang for plastic surgery, reflects how common it is in Brazilian society. Widely used term.


To learn more about these topics, feel free to explore the following sources

  • Machado-Borges, Thaïs, Stockholms universitet, Latinamerika-institutet, Humanistiska fakulteten, and Institutionen för spanska, portugisiska och latinamerikastudier. 2009. Producing beauty in brazil: Vanity, visibility and social inequality. Vibrant Virtual Brazilian Anthropology 6 (1): 208.
  • Finger, C. 2003. Brazilian beauty – brazil’s cosmetic surgery industry is thriving, but why is beauty so important? Lancet 362 (9395): 1560-.
  • “Impact: Promises to Reform Brazil’s Overcrowded Prisons” Human Rights Watch, December, 22, 2015.

Questions to Consider:

  • How might the easy access of DNA testing alter Brazilian identity?
  • How might the desire of plastic surgery alter if it became an entirely privatized industry, leaving some with no access to it at all?
  • What role to prisons play in maintaining Brazilian class structure?

Macabéa’s Abuse

Question: What is the justification for both Macabéa’s acquaintances and the narrator to verbally abuse her?

A major theme of the novel are the physical and psychological effects on Macabéa placed on her from her poor living conditions. She in an underpaid typist with poor skills and is constantly verbally abused by her boss (13). The majority characters in the novel emphasize this point, from her ex-boyfriend Olímpico de Jesus allowing his hyper masculinity to cut off ties with Macabéa for days because he failed to lift her up (44) or shutting down her dreams of being a film actress (45), to her co-worker Gloria insulting her makeup (53). The sole time Macabéa rejects these insults is towards Gloria’s insult. Aside from this exception, Macabéa consistently endures insults and condescension from her peers, often times unable to understand that comments directed at her were negative. Her abuse has been normalized since childhood, considering her relationship with her aunt who would beat her head to prevent a life of vagrancy (20).

These relationships are the foundation for Lispector’s portrayal of lower class Brazilians. The novel draws attention to how Macabéa is treated and systematically held back due to her weak educational background. However, Lispector’s own narrator subjugates Macabéa further by insulting her while telling her story. This unreliable narrator refers to her as a stray dog (10) and unwanted coffee (20), while still proclaiming their love for her (21). The purpose of these insults is to emphasize the idea that even the one telling the story is not free of bias, that even though they are not directly interacting with Macabéa, they still view her as lesser for her educational and economic status. Classist sentiments are allegorized in the final scene, in which an upper-class, foreign born driver of a Mercedes hits Macabéa, ultimately killing her (74). The lack of the driver’s concern for her wellbeing, along with the fact that no one actively tries to help her find medical assistance, drives home the justification for her abuse; Macabéa is inherently worth less than other Brazilians for her economic status.

Research Project – Festa Junina

To emphasize a crucial aspect of Brazilian society to the class, this research project will emphasize the importance of the Festa Junina, or June Festival in Brazil. On the surface, this is just another aspect of culture well known for its festivities. However, just like carnival, this festival carries heavy social themes of class and race which infiltrate all interactions during the celebration. This research project aims to explore how the Festa Junina perpetuates racist and classist sentiments in a Brazilian urban environment. To better convey these issues to an American audience,


To understand the Festa Junina, an acknowledgement must be given to the traditions within the festival that will be explored. Using sources that trace the history of practices such as bonfires and São João to their European origin, a foundation can be created for understanding Brazilian versions of this Midsummer celebration. Thus, other primary sources can provide clarity to the specific practices unique to Brazil. From there, various secondary sources will serve as critiques of the aforementioned traditions, analyzing the executions of the festival in Brazilian metropolitan areas. Although the tradition is centered around a celebration of rural life, these scholarly sources expose the festival as an exclusionary practice that prevents those being celebrated from participating, simultaneously demeaning non-white Brazilians in the process. This research is to discover more of how a seemingly lighthearted event carries dangerous implications for Brazilian society itself.


The act of maintaining a major tradition for fair-skinned and middle class Brazilians results in the intersection of identity in the nation. A major focus of this course has been to outline the lived experiences of Brazilians, and what aspects of the culture allow individuals to identify with the nationality. Understanding how this tradition, which has existed since the colonial area, has emphasized the class and racial dynamics in Brazil is crucial to analyzing how the society is structured. Knowing the development and modern practices of the festival can provide insight into knowing the true face of Brazilian society is like.


This research project integrates various interpretations of the Festa Junina ino a single presentation, providing an overview of how this festival sustains a culture of class and racial exclusion in a nation which prides itself on equality. Designed for an American audience, this project will illuminate issues within an important Brazilian festival, breaking down preconceived notions that Brazilian culture is simply a tourist paradise for innocent excitement. This is a culture with complex and deep rooted issues, problems which will be understood through the context of the Festa Junina.



Primary Sources:


  • Rangel, Lúcia Helena Vitalli. Festas juninas, festas de São João: origens, tradições e história. São Paulo, SP: Publishing Solutions, 2008.
  • Anderson, Michael Alan. “Fire, Foliage and Fury: Vestiges of Midsummer Ritual in Motets for John the Baptist.” Early Music History, 2011. 1-54.
  • Bhoil, Shelly. 2017. Festa junina – the winter fest of brazil. Indian Express, Jun 28, 2017.


Scholarly/Secondary Sources:

  • Chisholm, Jennifer. “Festa junina and the Changing Meanings of Brazilian Rural Festivals in Urban Spaces.” Alter/nativas, no. 4 (2015).
  • Packman, Jeff. 2012. “The Carnavalização of São João: Forrós, Sambas and Festive Interventions during Bahia, Brazil’s festas juninas.” Ethnomusicology Forum 21, no. 3: 327-353.
  • Campos, Judas Tadeu de. 2007. Festas juninas nas escolas: Lições de preconceitos. Educação & Sociedade 589-606
  • Roth-Gordon, Jennifer. “Fears of Racial Contact: Crime, Violence, and the Struggle over Urban Space.” In Race and the Brazilian Body: Blackness, Whiteness, and Everyday Language in Rio De Janeiro, 95-127. Oakland, California: University of California Press, 2017.
  • Castro, Jânio Roque Barros. “The Promotion of Big Parties During the June Festivities in Private Arenas in Reconcavo Region: An Analytical Assessment.” GeoTextos, 2011.

Fixing Wikipedia’s Coverage of the Festa Junina

Alongside the start of winter comes the end of the rainy season in most of Brazil. To commemorate this event, Brazilians partake in a tradition originating from Portugal known as the Festa Junina, or June Festival. It commemorates the birth of St. John the Baptist and serves as a way to thank him for the past season of rain. Though this annual event spurs mass festivities across all of Brazil, Wikipedia’s English coverage of the topic is rather barren and unprofessional. The article is plagued by a general lack of information and poor formatting, despite being a national holiday with festivities comparable to that of Carnival. The English version of this page is in desperate need of improvement, as the lack of proper information is inhibited English speaking audiences from accessing information on Brazilian culture.

Specific mention of the English version of this page is made, as in Portuguese, it is a well-structured Wikipedia article. There are various subsections that go into detail about aspects of the festival, including clothing, dancing, cuisine, and the purpose of the fire pit, or fogueira. Each section is properly cited with credible sources, a template for what the English version ought to be. Unfortunately, an English-speaking audience is locked out of a proper general overview of the tradition, as the current page is simply four paragraphs with no subsections. There is only mention of clothing and dances, with only one link to another page on Brazilian culture, whereas in Portuguese there are links to articles that further explore each aspect of the festival.  In fixing this page, a helpful first step would be to borrow citations from the Portuguese page for the English page and translate them for a wider audience. This way, rather than being a vague explanation of a few cherry-picked ideas, the article can cover a wide variety of topics concerning an integral part of Brazilian culture.

Sources for a proposed editing of this page, as mentioned, would primarily arise from already established citations on the Portuguese version of this page. However, the point of this refurbishment is not to simply translate the Portuguese page. Rather, those sources will serve as a foundation for recreating this page. Along with that, some sources can be found online using the College of Wooster’s partnership with OhioLINK. These offer various criticisms surrounding the celebration, including the racial exclusivity underlying the festivals (Packman). This database already has various works which analyze and describe the culture and history surrounding the tradition. Even websites run by the Ohio State University offer articles surrounding the celebration of a rural lifestyle in an urban location (Chisholm). Reputable coverage of this events exists, the only issue is simply summarizing it into a properly formatted article, crediting each source of information properly.

Evidently there is already mass coverage on this event, but there are crucial reasons to give this topic such delicate attention. Not only is the Festa Juina celebrated throughout the entire country, but Brazil holds the record for having the largest celebration of Saint John in the world (Bastos). This is a festivity celebrated in Europe as well, so not only would this expand knowledge on Brazil, but it would also give insight into the European traditions themselves. The page itself is recognized by Wikipedia as being crucial to the understanding of Brazilian culture, as it has been added to “WikiProject Brazil” and “WikiProject Holidays”. Fixing the article would be contributing to a wider goal of spreading information about all of Brazilian culture. Doing so would also bring justice to the page, as it has been vandalized on more than one occasion. The talk page barely focuses on any of this however, as the only entries are from nearly a decade ago, followed by a single post asking a question that has yet to be properly answered with a reputable source. Helping alleviate the issues on this page would not only contribute to diversifying information for more users, but it would bring retribution to a page that has been ignored by the Wikipedia community.

The Festa Junina is an integral part of Brazilian culture. It gives insight into how Brazilians value their origins from rural farm life in a modernized age. To allow the coverage of such a vital topic on Wikipedia to remain vague and without citations is an injustice to a brilliantly intricate festivity. Thus, a plan has been set forth to repair the page and improve its status on Wikipedia, not only for English readers, but for the credibility of Wikipedia’s platform, and for Brazilians who hope to spread information of their culture.



  • Packman, Jeff. 2012. The carnavalização of são joão: Forrós, sambas and festive interventions during bahia, brazil’s festas juninas. Ethnomusicology Forum 21 (3): 327-53
  • Chisholm, Jennifer. “Festa junina and the Changing Meanings of Brazilian Rural Festivals in Urban Spaces.” Alter/nativas, no. 4 (2015).
  • Bastos, Ângela. “Na maior festa de São João do mundo, público chega a 1,5 milhão de pessoas.” NCS DC, June 25, 2011.

Criticism of Wikipedia’s “Afro-Brazilians” Coverage

Wikipedia’s coverage of Afro-Brazilians offers an acceptable overview of the concept, though lacking in crucial details and plagued with American bias. In an attempt to stay neutral, the page relies heavily on factual evidence from surveys and genetic testing. The majority of citations come from government websites and literature discussing the topic, most of which are in Portuguese, but all of which are an even mix of recent and somewhat dated information. This places a heavy burden on translators, given the duty of accurate transformation of information from one language to another. It adds a level of uncertainty to the article, as phrasing can create altered interpretations. Many of these authors having opposing views, which helps create a fuller version of how Brazil has constantly struggled to find an ideal way to categorize its diverse population. When these writers are in contrast, the article makes sure to address both sides while staying neutral, such as in its discussion of Sérgio Pena and Edward Telles. Unfortunately, the potential this article has is underscored by subpar editing, cultural bias, and constant interference by emotionally charged edits.

Properly structuring information in an article helps readers find what they hope to learn more about. Repeating the same thought throughout a page takes away from this. Citation [9] and [10] are used twice to explain that Afro-Brasileiro and Africano Brasileiro were not selected by as identifiers by the Brazilian public; once in the introduction of the page, and again in the Brazilian race/colour categories section. Both mentions are close paraphrasing of one another. The survey used is abbreviated as PME in the introduction, but not defined as the Monthly Employment Survey until the second time it is mentioned. This shows a reverse thought process, where attention was given to the body first, in a situation where outside sources will be using a chronological pattern while reading. Citations become an issue again in the section Revaluation of Black Identity, where the entire first paragraph only has two citations with credible sources, and the rest lacking any support. Not having backup to any claims shows a lack of dedication to the subject and makes way for personal beliefs to be interpreted as fact. The section Geographic distribution of Black Brazilians constantly mentions (see table) though no captions are added to any of the tables in this section. Rather than saying “see figure 1.1”, all references to data tables in this section are assumed to be referring to whatever is directly above the text. This way of presenting information allows for more errors than necessary, and could be resolved by a quick labeling of all charts, rather than leaving untitled calculations strewn about.

Mixed in with actual constructive information about the dynamic identity of Afro-Brazilians lies American authors attempting to draw comparisons between the United States of America and Brazil. Most of these connections are justified, such as mentioning that the term “afrodescendente” may have been created due to influence from “politically correct” movements in the United States of America. However, irrelevant information such as the formation of a “racial caste” in United States in the section Conception of Black and prejudice is it’s own paragraph and is out of place in a section discussion Brazilian social issues. When reading the article in Portuguese, this point is not mentioned at all, hinting that Americans have been contributing their own biases to the development of this page. Also when reading the article in Portuguese, most sections are much more fleshed out, especially Discriminação (Discrimination). In English, there is very little discussion on Afro-Brazilian’s impact on cultural activities such as soccer, carnival, and capoeira, despite being large sectors of Brazilian identity.

The “Talk Page” provides much needed insight into the odd structure of this article. Many contributions and edits have been made by users allowing personal opinion to cloud the unbiased nature of Wikipedia. Most interactions between users are of a negative nature, a mix of Brazilians defining race in their own terms and American believing that they’re concepts of race are the global norm. The term “Afro-Brasilerio” is of constant debate. As user Ninguém argues, the creation of the term is entirely by Americans who have imposed their lebeling of African Americans into Brazilian anthropology. Others, such as user Lecen, fail to acknowledge that Brazil lacks a black/white contrast that Americans use constantly, and uses it to define Brazilian relations. Other conversations on this page are simply insults aimed at other users for removing information that contained personal opinion, such as Opinso who failed to add reliable sources to claims that turned out to be their own. Rather than correct the mistake, Opinsos accused other users of not having any lives outside of editing Wikipedia. This kind of interaction prevents any real progress, and allows what could have been valid information to be discarded due to immaturity. That being said, the majority of this page is users fixing broken external links.

Wikipedia’s page on Afro-Brazilians is a part of WikiProject Brazil, which aims to provide more information on the South American nation for an English audience. Generally speaking, the page provides a very basic introduction into identity and African decent in Brazil, though some issues of formatting, biases, and personal ideas interfere with the information in this article. Compared to in-class discussions, the page most obviously has much more factual backup, compared to us students who base our comments on personal opinion and observation from a limited number of sources. Wikipedia strives to be an authority on all subjects of the known world, though it’s mission relies on the work of community efforts. Constant discourse and unprofessionalism destroy this ideal. It’s up to future editors to be critical of past additions, and be able to filter information to produce an unbiased representation of a controversial subject.