This project explores race and its representation in the performing arts as central to the modern concept of Brazilianness in the decades following the pivotal week of Modern Art held in São Paulo, Brazil in 1922. While at the Institute, I will explore the racial discourse of Brazil’s most iconic white performer of all times, Carmen Miranda (1909-1955), whose signature look embodied the racially-charged ‘baiana’ or Afro-Brazilian street vendor who would typically carry large baskets of food and fruit on top of their turbans. In this study I aim to understand the literal and figurative black masks that were used, politically and culturally, to project an ‘authentic’ race-blind Brazilian culture. At the core of the book project is the concept of transculturation as theorized by Fernando Ortiz (1940), a concept that I apply to the racial and ethnical discourse of Miranda’s performances. I hope to provide critical insights to the appropriation of the Afro-Brazilian image in Brazil and the transformation of this image on Broadway and in Hollywood, through a new intercultural gaze.
Kathryn Sanchez is Associate Professor of Portuguese and works with Portuguese literature of the 19th and 20th Century, Brazilian film and popular culture, and the representation of Brazil and Brazilians in the United States. She frequently teaches Portuguese and Brazilian literature and culture, an introductory course to Latin America, and courses on race, gender and sexual difference in relation to the Portuguese-speaking world. Her current research project is a book length study that re-evaluates Carmen Miranda as an icon of tropical otherness in the United States. Her first book, Utopias Desmascaradas [Unmasked Utopias], was published by the Portuguese National Press INCM, in 2008 and explored otherness in the context of Portuguese Romanticism. She has published articles in Portuguese Studies, Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, Quadrant, Santa Barbara Portuguese Studies, World Literature and Its Time, Queirosiana and Portuguese Literary and Cultural Studies. She served as the President of the American Portuguese Studies Association (2008-2010).