Room for Manoeuvre: (Cultural) Encounters and Concepts of Place
The contribution examines transcultural place-making and the search for Brazilian identity,
Brazilianness, in Jorge Amado’s (1912–2001) writings. Amado’s preferred setting is the Brazilian
federal state of Bahia, known for its strong cultural ties to Africa and its large Afro-Brazilian popu-
lation. In Amado’s novel Tenda dos milagres (Tent of Miracles) (1968), Bahia’s capital, Salvador, is
portrayed as a place where cultural influences of African, Brazilian indigenous and European
origin meet. Amado compares Salvador da Bahia’s historic centre, also known as the Pelourinho,
to a kind of Afro-Brazilian “university”. The Pelourinho thus becomes a place where Brazilian culture
as transcultural culture, in the form of Mestizo culture, develops, where it is practised and
where it can be directly experienced. In describing Salvador da Bahia as the cradle of Brazilian
culture, thus locating culture in a specific place, Amado contributes to defining Brazilianness.
Transcultural place-making helps to construct Mestizo identity within a national and a cultural
framework. Searching for Brazilianness moreover means to reevaluate and emancipate the former
colony in attributing to Brazil a pioneering task: Salvador da Bahia is made into as the
world’s umbilicus, and “the mulatto”, the result of intercultural encounters there, becomes the
“man of the future”. This raises the question how a place takes shape in transcultural processes.
The contribution thus connects to Paul Gilroy’s statement that transculturality accentuates not
only dynamics and restlessness but above all the creativity of transcultural processes.