Laughter out of Place: Race, Class, Violence, and Sexuality in a Rio Shantytown

Laughter out of Place: Race, Class, Violence, and Sexuality in a Rio Shantytown

Laughter out of Place: Race, Class, Violence, and Sexuality in a Rio Shantytown

Laughter out of Place: Race, Class, Violence, and Sexuality in a Rio Shantytown

Synopsis

"Goldstein returns anthropology to what it does best while taking the reader on a no-holds-barred ride through the tragicomic world of a Rio favela. She captures the bittersweet laughter of Brazil's vast subterranean underclass of domestic servants who keep their anger and despair at bay by laughing and spitting into the face of chaos, injustice, and premature death. In this affecting and deft 'comedy of manners, ' Goldstein emerges as urban anthropology's new Jane Austen."--Nancy Scheper-Hughes, author of "Death without Weeping: The Violence of Everyday Life in Brazil

"Goldstein takes us right to where anthropology should be: into the blood, sweat, tears of shantytown life. "Laughter Out of Place tells the story of a Brazilian family on the edge of survival where women and children struggle, not just to stay alive, but also for joy in the face of poverty, men, and mutual betrayal."--Philippe Bourgois, author of "In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio

"A stunning ethnographic achievement that should become an urban anthropological classic. Goldstein brings us close to women who under extraordinary circumstances of poverty use humor to reveal the penetrating truth of their relationship to structures of power and the ironies of their raced, classed, and gendered lives. Superb and engaging ethnographic analysis is framed by sophisticated social theory and a comprehensive treatment of the literature on contemporary Brazilian society."--Judith Goode, co-editor of "The New Poverty Studies: The Ethnography of Power, Politics and Impoverished People in the United States

Excerpt

A bold and courageous book by a fresh anthropological voice, Laughter Out of Place returns anthropology to what it does best by taking the reader on a no-holds-barred ride into the tragicomic world of a bleak Brazilian favela. in Rio's vast subterranean underworld of mean and ugly public housing projects, interspersed with ragtag shantytowns that crop up daily on the northern extensions of the city, Felicidade Eterna (Eternal Happiness) residents struggle to keep their anger and despair at bay by laughing and spitting into the face of unbearable suffering, sickness, chaos, injustice, violence, and social abandonment. Welcome to Lula's Brazil—the inheritor of centuries of race, class, and sexual apartheid— which masquerades as a tropical paradise where neither sin nor guilt exist.

Goldstein stages this brilliant ethnography, which often reads like a novel, around a single protagonist, Glória, a tough-as-nails domestic worker, and her large extended family and network of friends, neighbors, and employers. Glória and her clan form a microcosm of Brazil's vast underclass, and they manage to survive with their wits intact through an earthy and absurdist Rabelaisian humor.

What's so funny about rape, child abandonment, physical abuse, or gang murders? Nothing and everything, as Goldstein shows while unraveling the layers of bravado, anger, defiance, and deep sadness that are built into each complex joke. Central to this book is Goldstein's treatment of humor as resistance. Glória laughs bitterly at the spontaneous . . .

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