Through a hemispheric framework, this dissertation explores how national, transnational, and racial identities have been mobilized through contemporary media representations of the mulatta/mulata (woman of African and European descent) figure in the United States and Brazil. Key to the national imagination, the mulatta figure embodies racialized sexual desires and tensions. Chapters One through Four compare U.S. and Brazilian histories, tropes, star texts, and cultural productions concerning mixed-race women of African descent. Chapter Five uses a transnational approach to consider the mixed-race figure. The dissertation uses both comparative and transnational methodologies to engage with a hemispheric framework. Through a hemispheric approach, this dissertation attempts to elucidate intersections and tensions of national, gender, sexual, class and racial formations and to uncover the very assumptions that construct these formations. As each country's historical and ideological responses towards racial mixing generated different national identities, images of the mulatta reflect these racialized national identities. At this juncture, the paths of Brazil and the United States are intersecting so that understandings of race in the United States and Brazil are becoming more similar. The dissertation shows how mixed-race discourses have upheld as well as resisted dominant racial ideologies. By examining media depictions of mixed-race actresses in both countries, the dissertation also shows how racial self-labeling repudiates national racial topographies. Using case studies from Hollywood films and U.S. and Brazilian television shows and star texts of mixed-race actresses, my dissertation argues that popular culture images of the mulatta demonstrate these shifts and that ideas of utopian mixed-race societies often operate concurrently with desires to manage or contain blackness and nullify racialized differences. The idea of the mixed-race figure of European and African descent then is hemispherically circulated such that similar indicators of sexual availability are signified in both countries. The last chapter explores the transnational dimensions of racial imaginings through an analysis of how Brazil is represented in U.S. cultural productions to mediate contemporary U.S. anxieties and desires around race and national identity. The dissertation ends with the upcoming Rio 2016 Olympic Games to examine how Brazil projects itself to the world. As the idea of race has been produced nationally and transnationally, my research shows that eliminating racism demands understanding race in both national and transnational contexts.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. August 2013. Major: American Studies. Advisors: Bianet Castellanos, Erika Lee. 1 computer file (PDF); v, 382 pages.
Popular Culture Images of the Mulatta: Constructing Race, Gender, and Nation in the United States and Brazil.
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