I have returned to Bahia after three years. In the interim I have changed capoeira groups. For the last two years I have practised capoeira Angola and I now train with Professora Paulinha in CapoeiraBem-Vindo.
I have continued to think about how capoeira affects security through a study of how capoeira players have reworked relationships of threat and protection by gaining cultural and political space. A key reason for choosing to study capoeira was that, as a subaltern voice, its perspective contrasts with that of conventional studies in security, which have been dominated by the powerful north.
Subaltern voices do not simply complement more powerful voices, they provide insights through the political challenges the pose. The subject of inequality, for instance, has been researched from diverse disciplines with regards to incidence of conflict, and the reduction of inequality is central to progressive peace. At the same time, though, the processes of capitalism and the priorities of neoliberalism have reproduced inequalities domestically and internationally.
The tension between the merits of equality and the realist demands of politics is maintained because inequality is not genuinely problematic for the powerful. The current securitisation of migration, the political and media noise framing the threats posed by migrants in the Mediterranean and Calais, can be understood as the institutionalisation of inequality according to the political needs of European governments.
Capoeira is a form of embodied knowledge that has grown out of inequality – of the slave trade and racial injustice – and it finds inequality problematic as it is degrading and dangerous.
|Playing capoeira with Treinel Marcelo (FICA) in Kilombo|
I have just spent three weeks in Kilombo Tenonde, a centre for capoeira and permaculture led by Mestre Cobra Mansa (FICA). Kilombo is dedicated to promoting environmental sustainability through bio-construction, and organic gardening and agro-forestry. Capoeira training takes place every day from 6-8am and there are music classes in the evening. The intensity and regularity of training attests to the fact that capoeira is not a distraction, it is integral to the way that Kilombo operates. Sharing in the artistic practice of capoeira generates community, and also provides a site for physical and mental well-being, reflection and mobilisation.
Where does this leave inequality and politics, conflict, peace and the securitisation of migration? Inequality is problematic because it enables the powerful to exert violence on the relatively powerless, and subaltern voices start to redress the inequality in information that imposes structures of violence on distressed populations. The criminalisation of capoeira in early 20th century Brazil was the Brazilian state's attempt to erase African history and the brutality of the slave trade from the future of Brazil. The securitisation of migration in the 21st century is a similar attempt to erase historic and contemporary violence from the future global order.
Capoeira provides an example of how a struggle has been maintained in Brazil, but as Kilombo demonstrates, art can provide a focus for undertaking or understanding other struggles. It is not simply what is said, it is how it is said: capoeira's constant celebration of African heritage and its valorisation of artistic expression is not a snapshot quantitative measure of inequality but a bulwark against its political processes.
|Artwork at Kilombo|
Attending to the perspectives and experiences of people – whether they are in Libya, Syria, the Mediterranean or Calais – is essential to the process of finding inequality problematic in the sense of being degrading, dangerous. Just as capoeira has celebrated its heritage, contemporary subaltern perspectives illuminate the regressive nature of northern security, and indicate how to work towards a future that does not systematically exclude the victims of past and present violence.
I will be presenting these thoughts as Keynote Speaker at the International Conference: Inequality, Peace and Conflict at Manchester University in September.