The ghost of the plantation: race, class, gender and popular culture in Venezuela

Mosquera Muriel, Nadia (2019) The ghost of the plantation: race, class, gender and popular culture in Venezuela. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

In the age of #BlackLivesMatter in the United States and Reaja ou Será Mortx (React or Die) in Brazil, black political mobilisations across the globe seek to confront racial injustice and structural discrimination against people of African descent or Afrodescendants. A recent wave of North American, European, and Latin American scholars has begun to look at Afro-Latin American social movements in more innovative ways. However, English-language scholarship on Afro-Latin America rarely explores Afrodescendants in Venezuela. This thesis helps fill this gap by providing an ethnographic account of what anti-racist black politics in Venezuela looks like in the post-Hugo Chávez era. Since the colonial era to the present day, race has always been assembled along class lines in Venezuela. Nonetheless, since the instigation of the anti-capitalist agenda known as “Socialism of the 21st century” by late President Chávez and current President Nicolás Maduro, political polarisation around race has increasingly surfaced in the country. Using the cases of Osma and Todasana -two villages which were former plantations and whose residents are the descendants of Africans who were subjected to slavery until 1854- this thesis illustrates how black activists and “culture-making” or cultural producers from these villages raise questions regarding race, class and gendered inequalities in Venezuela. I explore how activists in Osma and Todasana do this by showing how they problematise their identities using autochthonous resources in the local popular culture. Based on 13 months of fieldwork, this thesis draws on ethnographic methods, including interviews, life stories and participant observation with Afro-descendant activists, cultural producers and residents of these rural villages mostly inhabited by Afrodescendants. In doing so, this study explores what black politics looks like at the dawn of Venezuela's current economic crisis.
This ethnography offers a portrait of the ambivalences, tensions, and contradictions through which black Venezuelan politics is articulated within an overtly socialist state. In this research, I shift the focus away from conventional practices of social movements such as mass protests, or civil disobedience to argue that popular culture is a battlefield for Afro-descendants in Venezuela. Exploring popular culture is significant because it broadens our understanding of what political mobilisation means and which resources Afro-Latin American movements draw on to achieve social justice while contesting complex ideologies of mestizaje (racial mixture), which simultaneously celebrates and masks racism. This study thus shows that anti-racist mobilisation by autochthonous popular culture is a system of political mobilisation within Afro-descendants’ struggle for social change.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > International Development
Subjects: F History United States, Canada, Latin America > F2201 South America > F2301 Venezuela
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform > HN0050 By region or country > HN0251 South America > HN0361 Venezuela
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 10 Jun 2019 09:14
Last Modified: 10 Jun 2019 09:14
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/83931

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