Wednesday, 29 February 2012


Capoeira, the Brazilian martial art-game-dance-way of life, was developed in slave and ex-slave communities. It makes reference to experiences of Africa, oppression and liberation, and records – in its movement, rhythms and songs – the history of capoeira itself.
This project recognises capoeira as a counterhegemonic discourse: knowledge embodied in its creative and expressive art is conceptually independent of dominant textual historical discourse. Capoeira originated in the oppressed margins of society and is now a cultural export. Capoeira adepts have protected their interests and extended their political influence: security has been distributed through capoeira. Investigating how this happened brings into focus the interaction of security with power and freedom – two aspects that are routinely overlooked in security studies. The historical development of capoeira and its contemporary performance provide an analytical critique for the study of security.
I am not presenting a metaphorical message (‘life is like capoeira’ – although I think that in many respects this does hold!) and neither is it literal (‘everyone should play capoeira’ – although I have sympathy with this position too!). The point of the research is to identify the mechanisms by which security has been distributed through capoeira and to analyse what implications can be drawn for security theory and policy.

2 comments:

  1. Hey Zoe, good luck with this!!
    I am interested to hear what you think now, and what you will think when you come back.
    Do you think that the social relationships developed through a group activity like this are important in empowering a group/society and helping to promote peace within that group or somehow strengthening it against oppression? If so, how is capoeira different to other group activities... like for example sitting around playing cards in a bar or playing football? (I'm not saying there is a connection between these and security, but what is it in particular about capoeira? In the article you mention evasion rather than combat, do you think using wit rather than force is a way of overcoming oppression, or just a way of making it more bearable? A bit like satire.)
    How are you going to research this (presumably upside down) - who are you going to talk to?
    Are you mainly looking at Capoeira now, or historically?
    You're going to have so much fun!! Good luck!!! XXXX

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  2. Hey Bija Flor,
    Yes, I think there is a lot in what you say - that the formation of identity within a group can be empowering, and that this can take place in lots of different ways (along the lines of Putnam's work on social capital in Italy). I think capoeira has the edge on playing cards because the history is constantly told and retold through the movements, songs, music. Whenever you play tick-tock-tick on an agogo you are are acknowledging 'Africa is part of this' and transmitting that message to others! There are also the elements of oppression and liberation encoded in the game and its conventions. The past is the present in some sense, so yes, it's a historical study and a contemporary one.
    On the evasion point - I think this performs various functions. Not getting wiped out is one of them and making it a bit more bearable is related to that. I think satire is a really interesting comparison, because while in a way it's just making things funny, it also establishes a different logic - and that is what capoeira does. This means that satirists and capoeiristas build a kind of parallel set of values which can be empowering for them and disorientating for those in power.
    That's what I think now from my experience of capoeira here and reading and thinking about it. You can compare this to what I say when I get back!
    As for the rest of it - you are going to have to wait and see!!
    Thanks for your comments and I hope your capoeira's going well!
    xx

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