African-Brazilian History and Culture
Winterterm 2004

January 5-24, 2004

Course Description | Course Schedule & Program | Grading and Assigments
Course Faculty
Readings | Portuguese Language

Prof. Daryle Williams
Department of History
2106 Tawes Fine Arts Building
TEL: (301) 405-7856
FAX: (301) 314-9399

Course Description

People of African descent constitute a near-majority of Brazil’s current population of 180 million. In the state of Bahia, located in the northeast, afro-descendentes make up the absolute majority. Bahia's capital city, Salvador, is commonly known as the most "African" city of the Americas. To the south, in Rio de Janeiro, the Afro-Brazilian presence marks the special interplay between racial, cultural, and national claims to a sense of Brazilianness.

At the crossroads of the long histories of transatlantic and internal settlement, the Atlantic Slave Trade, cyclical regional economies, race consciousness, and cultural invention in which people of African descent—Malê, Nagô, and Mina; negro, mulata, morena, pardo; enslaved and free; afro-descendente; and simply brasileiro/brasileira —are key historical actors, Salvador and Rio are privileged cities in Brazil's place in African diaspora. Contemporary Salvador is a living museum of African culture in the Americas, where African "survivals"—old and new—are part of the fabric of daily life. Rio—the Marvelous City—is a "stage" in which blackness is performed for varied audiences.

Of course, recent debates in historical anthropology and cultural studies suggest that many of the so-called African cultural "traditions" found in Salvador, are, in fact manifestations of hybridized, multicultural, and polycentric black Atlantic culture. Rio's blackness is just as much fantasia (the Portuguese word for flight-of-fancy and costume) as reality. One of the course's primary objectives, then, will be to identify and disentangle the African, the Brazilian, and the Atlantic; the fact and fiction of contemporary Black Brazil.

This intensive three-week, three-credit course in African Brazilian History and Culture will introduce students to the historical and cultural landscape of Black Brazil. The three-day course introduction, held at College Park, will be devoted to identifying the presence of African-Brazilian people and culture from the early 16th century to the present. Following a travel day to Brazil, the remainder of the course will be spent in Salvador da Bahia and Rio de Janeiro. The Universidade Estadual da Bahia (UNEB) and Universidade Cândido Mendes (UCAM) will be our institutional hosts. Faculty from these and other Brazilian institutions will speak with the group.

Class meetings in Brazil will include scheduled lectures by regular and guest faculty. Topics to be covered will include: the cosmology of candomblé; the history of racial ideology in Brazil; slavery and emancipation in nineteenth-century Rio; Brazil's relationship to Africa; contemporary black political movements; and the impact of affirmative action initiatives on the practice of citizenship. Assigned readings will accompany the lectures.

Escorted site visits in Bahia include a house of candomblé in Cachoeira, a capoeira school, music and theatrical performances, regional museums and art centers, Olodum Cultural Center, local grassroots organizational headquarters, and the Pelourinho historical district. Site visits in Rio will include the Mangueira samba school, the Projeto Criança Esperança in the Morro a Cantagalo community, a tour of Black Rio, museums and cultural centers along the downtown Corredor Cultural, and musical performances.

This course will be taught in English with translation into Portuguese for selected site visits and guest lectures. Students are encouraged to make their best effort to learn some of the Portuguese language.

Course Schedule & Program

This is a three-week course, to be held January 5-24, 2004. The first three days of class (January 5-7) we will held on the College Park campus, 10:00am-4:00pm in Tawes 2102 (Driskell Center Multipurpose Room). The three-day course introduction includes a "crash-course" in basic Brazilian Portuguese.

On Thursday, January 8, 2004, the group is scheduled to travel to Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, arriving on Friday, January 9. The group continues to Rio de Janeiro on Saturday, January 17. Departure for the United States is scheduled for Friday, January 23, arriving at Washington-National Airport on Saturday, January 24. See Logistics for more information on travel.

In Brazil, the course is divided between lectures and discussions, held in a classroom setting, and field trips.

Click for Program (PDF file). Program subject to change.

All students are expected to attend all scheduled activities.

Grading & Course Assignments

Click for Assigments (PDF file).


The program fee of $1875 includes tuition, fees, housing, and local transportation while in Brazil. The fee does not include airfare, meals, course materials, and incidentals. The program will assist in making low-cost flight arrangements, estimated at $900, but students will make direct payment to a designated travel agent. A $300 deposit is required with the application. The deposit will be refunded only if the student is not accepted or the program is cancelled. A final payment of $1575 is due by November 1, 2003.

All payment issues are handled through the Study Abroad Office.