Ciphering nations: performing identity in Brazil and the Caribbean.

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Ciphering nations: performing identity in Brazil and the Caribbean.

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This dissertation explores the interaction of theories of hybridity, mestizaje, mestiçagem and popular culture representations of national identity in Cuba, Brazil, and Puerto Rico throughout the 20th century. I examine a series of cultural products, including performance, film, and literature, and argue that using the four elements of Hip Hop culture—deejay, emcee, break, graffiti—as a lens for reading draws out the intra- American dialogues and foregrounds the Africanist aesthetic as it informs the formation of national identity in the Americas. Hip Hop, rather than focus solely on its characteristic hybridity, calls attention to race and to a legacy of fighting racism. Instead of hiding behind miscegenation and aspirations of romanticized hybridity and mixing, it blatantly points out oppressions and introduces them into popular culture through its four components—thus reaching audiences through multiple modalities. Tropes of mestizaje or branqueamento—racial mixing/whitening—depoliticize blackness through official refusal to cite cultural contributions and emphasize instead a whitened blending. Hip Hop points blatantly to persistent social inequalities. Diverse and divergent in their political histories, the geographic and nationally bound sites that form the foci of this study are bound by their contentious relationships to the United States, an emphasis on the Africanist aesthetic, and a rich history of intertextual exchanges. Rather than look at individual nation formation and marginalized bodies’ performances of subversion, this study highlights the common tropes that link these nations and bodies and that privilege an alternative way of constructing history and understanding present day transnational bodies.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2011. Major:Hispanic and Luso Literatures, Cultures & Linguistics. Advisors: Amy Kaminsky and Jaime Hanneken. 1 computer file (PDF); iii, 197 pages.

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Wood, Naomi Pueo. (2011). Ciphering nations: performing identity in Brazil and the Caribbean.. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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