Buried alive: Imagining Africa in the Brazilian Northeast:


Many rural black communities in Brazil are currently petitioning for legal recognition as descendant communities of fugitive slaves (quilombos) under a provision in the 1988 Constitution of Brazil. In this article, I analyze the elaboration and transformation of a family story into a narrative about slavery in one such recognized quilombo. I then further analyze the narrative's transformation into a play performed regularly by adolescent members of the quilombo. Because quilombo identity took shape in tandem with changes in the story, elements of the narrative have become crucial to the production of new bases for self-identification, solidarity, and conflict. At the same time, those transformations have been guided by, and continue to be associated with, practices, beliefs, and worldviews about race, color, ethnicity, and religion that were salient prior to the invocation of the constitutional provision. In addition to illustrating how law can be instrumental in transforming local cultural practices and self-understandings, the story told in this article adds to reexaminations of community as an invocation of positive associations tied to an assumed communal past.