Ideologies of Marginality in Brazilian Hip Hop

By Castillo-Garsow, Melissa | Anthropological Quarterly, Summer 2011 | Go to article overview
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Ideologies of Marginality in Brazilian Hip Hop


Castillo-Garsow, Melissa, Anthropological Quarterly


Derek Pardue, Ideologies of Marginality in Brazilian Hip Hop. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2008. 224 pp.

Derek Pardue is a cultural anthropologist and the foremost US scholar on Brazilian hip hop, having already contributed a number of articles on the topics of race, educational practices, and marginal ideologies in relation to hip hop. As the only English-language book-length study on the topic, Ideologies of Marginality in Brazilian Hip Hop provides an important contribution to a slow but growing body of scholarship on hip hop's globalization. This is especially significant in Brazil's case, as Brazil has a vibrant yet understudied hip hop scene. Pardue focuses on various elements of hip hop (MCing, DJing, break dancing, graffiti writing) to demonstrate how Brazilian participants represent their reality in response to daily social, economic, and locational marginalization. According to Pardue, these self-constructions through hip hop provide both an empowering space for practitioners as well as a way to deconstruct and reconstruct societal notions of race, gender, and favela life in Brazil.

Pardue's primary research came from four years of residence in São Paulo, Brazil between 1995 and 2002, as well as various two-month research stays during which he interviewed dozens of rappers, DJs, b-boys, b-girls, and graffiti artists. Although Pardue did speak to a growing number of hip hop icons and celebrities in Brazil, his focus is mainly the independent artists residing in the favelas, their everyday lives, and how they use hip hop in an attempt to comment on or change their lives and Brazilian society as a whole. His focus on São Paulo favela residents omits the existence and impact of a completely divergent scene in Rio de Janeiro, where highly commercialized baile funk competes with more socially conscious messages.

Within this ethnographical approach, Pardue's discussion of what specific conceptual aspects of hip hop in São Paulo are particularly "Brazilian" are approached through several theoretical and methodological frames, which he outlines in the introduction. Specifically, he frames Brazilian Hip Hop as an "alternative system" of cultural production and identity formation for marginalized populations. More than just a musical form of expression, Pardue conceives of hip hop in Brazil as an ideology of social consciousness, truth-telling, and transformation. He contends that hip hoppers in Brazil use the idea of periferia (their periphery location and social standing) as a primary source of information and social consciousness and as a way to inspire transformação (transformation) in both their communities and individual lives. The periferia, then, is both a place and an ideology, simultaneously signifying marginality and empowerment for the favela resident engaging in hip hop culture. While the numerous interviews and variety of practitioners that he came into contact with is significant, his ethnographic approach engages with very little lyrical analysis, which would have further illuminated this idea of transformação. While Pardue presents what the hip hoppers say about their involvement, he provides very little of what they actually produce, for example, in terms of written lyrics for rappers, or artwork for graffiti writers.

Pardue incorporates a brief but important history of hip hop's development in Brazil within the context of the country's socioeconomic disparities, the military dictatorship, the black consciousness movement and the emergence of a música black.

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