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 population. 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.