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Getting by on Music: Re-scaling to New Circumstances in Recife’s Music Scene

September 24, 2018 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

A photograph depicting graffiti on a residential building. An abstract, light blue, undulating shape lies below a spray painted message which reads, in Portuguese: "Un-valorized art is misunderstood art."
Photo credit: Falina Enriquez. Photo depicts graffiti on a residential building. Spray painted message reads (in Portuguese): “Un-valorized art is misunderstood art.”

Monday Seminar:

Falina Enriquez

Race, Ethnicity, and Indigeneity (REI) Fellow (2018-2019)

Anthropology; Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies (LACIS), UW-Madison


In the 2000s and early 2010s, musicians in Recife, the capital of the northeastern state of Pernambuco, were benefiting from federal and state multicultural policies, which enabled many of them to envision and execute large-scale performances. In 2010 and 2011, when I conducted ethnographic fieldwork of the city’s cena alternativa (alternative scene) the musicians I knew had trouble making ends meet, yet state sponsorship nevertheless supported their aspirations to perform their mixtures of rock, jazz, and local folk sounds on bigger and better domestic and international stages with higher production values. However, by 2015, the unprecedented economic growth Brazilians had been experiencing gave way to the country’s worst recession in modern history. As legislators responded by cutting federal and state-level budgets, the cultural funding on which Recife’s musicians and cultural promoters had come to rely upon became less plentiful and accessible.

This presentation addresses how musicians and cultural promoters are coping with Brazil’s economic crisis and the changes in cultural policy that have accompanied it. Ultimately, they have been downscaling their strategies for surviving in what was already an unstable and precarious musical market. How are such strategies re-shaping their practical and aesthetic goals? What kinds of new (inter)subjectivities are they developing as they struggle to get by as professional musicians?


Falina Enriquez is an assistant professor of Anthropology at UW-Madison. As a cultural and linguistic anthropologist, her research examines artistic and communicative practices as constitutive elements of social life. She received her Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of Chicago in 2014 and has received grants from organizations such as the National Science Foundation and the Fulbright Program. As a faculty member at UW-Madison since 2015, she has been expanding her research on music and state sponsorship in Recife, Brazil. While in residence at the Institute for Research in the Humanities, she will complete her book manuscript, tentatively entitled, “Musical Scales of Belonging in Recife, Brazil.”


September 24, 2018
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
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University Club, Room 212
432 East Campus Mall
Madison, Wisconsin 53703 United States