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Bitches Unleashed

Performance and Embodied Politics in Favela Funk

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Raquel Moreira

This book challenges white and Western feminist approaches to embodied politics, or the use of the body in everyday enactments of resistance, while mapping transgressive performances of femininities by the funkeiras, marginalized women and transfeminine people of color artists in Brazilian favela funk. Often studied from a white feminist perspective, embodied politics reflects debates about agency and structural change that are generally applicable to white women in the West. Concurrently, studies of femininity tend to universalize experiences of gender oppression encountered by white women to women across the globe. In this work, the author offers a transnational perspective on the performative force of embodied politics as a possible means to disrupt white, classist heteropatriarchal structures that oppress particularly poor women and transfeminine people of color in Brazil. This project has a threefold goal: first, it challenges the theoretical shortcomings of white feminist approaches to embodied politics, providing instead a transfeminista take on the concept. Secondly, this project aims to shed light on how traditional methodological approaches have hindered nuanced understandings of women and people of color and their performances. Third and finally, by challenging and re-envisioning the potential of embodied politics from a transnational perspective, the text intends to contribute to the field of critical intercultural communication’s growing but still limited research around bodies and performance, especially of those who are marginalized in global contexts.
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Chapter Six: “Sit Down and Observe Your Own Destruction, Macho!”: Travesti Performances in Favela Funk

Extract

Perhaps, at this point, it has become apparent that I avoid using the term “queer” in my description of gender nonconforming performances in favela funk. There are a few important reasons for doing so. First and foremost, as Ochoa notes, queer is a category local to the U.S. that has traveled a great deal because of the “theoretical hegemony that allows for the publication and circulation of American texts around the world.”1 Scholars writing in different settings must be careful, as queer “does not have the same resonance” everywhere it goes.2 Additionally, as Eng, Halberstam, and Muñoz contend, the supremacy of U.S.-based scholarship reproduces dynamics that go beyond academia, in which meanings of queerness, and gender and sexuality categories more broadly, are subsumed by “U.S. nationalist identity and political agenda globally.”3 My work is committed precisely to undoing Western-centric readings of transgressive performances from women and transfeminine people of color, and a careless use of “queer” could inadvertently reinforce these tendencies.←161 | 162→

Queer theory has been accused of failing “to address culturally specific texts of knowledge(s) embedded in the material realities of non-White American middle-class LGBTQ people.”4 Moreover, queer theory’s focus on “selfhood, individual agency, and experience”5 comes at the expense of recognizing the impact class, race, citizenship, and more has on individual identity while simultaneously failing to acknowledge the importance of culture, community, relationships, and collective resistance so vital for the survival of LGBTQIA+ people of color.6 Relatedly, Cohen warns...

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