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The transnational Indian

Grant number: 16/26118-6
Support Opportunities:Research Grants - Visiting Researcher Grant - International
Duration: March 08, 2017 - April 07, 2017
Field of knowledge:Applied Social Sciences - Communications - Theory of Communication
Principal Investigator:Esther Império Hamburger
Grantee:Esther Império Hamburger
Visiting researcher: Robert Philip Stam
Visiting researcher institution: New York University, United States
Host Institution: Escola de Comunicações e Artes (ECA). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil


My proposed project in conjunction with the University of Sao Paulo emerges from my longstanding interest in the question of the cultural role and the mediatic representations of the indigenous peoples of the Americas both in international cinema and within social theory. At the crossroads of cultural/media studies and intellectual history, my project analyzes the figure of the "Indian" both as the object of diverse national projections and as emblem of alternative social norms. Bringing into play my academic background both in Comparative Literature (Anglo-American, French, Portuguese, and Brazilian) and in Film/Media Studies, I would like to pursue in greater depth such questions as: Why did countries like Brazil and the U. S., where vast indigenous populations had been reduced to a miniscule "minority," accord "the Indian" such a significant role in how they imagined their own national identities? Why did what Doris Sommer calls Latin America's "foundational fictions" feature fecund heterosexual romance between European men and indigenous women as the generative matrix of national identity, while Anglo-American (and some German) Indianist fictions privileged homo-social relations between men (Robinson Crusoe and Friday, Natty Bumpo and Chingachgook, Shatterhand and Winnetou)? My later book Tropical Multiculturalism: A Comparative History of Race in Brazilian Cinema and Culture (1997), subsequently translated into Portuguese as Multiculturalismo Tropical: Uma Historia Comparativa da Raca na Cultura e no Cinema Brasileiros (EDUSP, 2006) focused primarily on Brazil and the representations of Afro-descended Brazilians in the Cinema, but it also included a brief typology of portrayals of native Brazilians, yielding a rich gallery of types and stereotypes. Although rarely demonized as dangerous savages as was typical of Hollywood films, the Brazilian Indian has been endlessly romanticized, paternalized, idealized, and allegorized in film and popular culture. Rather than focus exclusively on the cinema, my proposed project with the University of Sao Paulo would explore a broader mediatic spectrum that would include not only the cinema but also theatre (Oficina's anthropophagic "Hamlet"), popular music (Caetano's "O Indio" and even rap music performed in Tupi), and social/anthropological theory (e.g. the work of Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, Ailton Krenak, Manuela Carneiro da Cunha, Betty Mindlin, among many others). Secondly, rather than deploy a binational (US/Brazil) comparative framework as in Tropical Multiculturalism, the project would take on a broader Transocceanic and transhemispheric approach by focusing on the "Red Atlantic" and the circulation of the image of the " Indian" most centrally in relation to Brazil, but also within a larger transnational context that includes Latin America, France, the U.S., and in a minor way, Germany. (AU)

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