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

Donna M. Goldstein presents a hard-hitting critique of urban poverty and violence and challenges much of what we think we know about the "culture of poverty" in this compelling read. Drawing on more than a decade of experience in Brazil, Goldstein provides an intimate portrait of everyday life among the women of the favelas, or urban shantytowns in Rio de Janeiro, who cope with unbearable suffering, violence and social abandonment. The book offers a clear-eyed view of socially conditioned misery while focusing on the creative responses--absurdist and black humor--that people generate amid daily conditions of humiliation, anger, and despair. Goldstein helps us to understand that such joking and laughter is part of an emotional aesthetic that defines the sense of frustration and anomie endemic to the political and economic desperation among residents of the shantytown.

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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