The African Diaspora and its impact globally

The African diaspora consists of the worldwide collection of communities descended from native sub-Saharan Africans or people from Sub-Saharan Africa, predominantly in the Americas.

Between 1500 and 1900, approximately four million enslaved Africans were transported to island plantations in the Indian Ocean, about eight million were shipped to Mediterranean-area countries, and about eleven million survived the Middle Passage to the New World. Their descendants are now found around the globe, but because of intermarriage they are not necessarily readily identifiable.

African diaspora

I have enjoyed regular contact with the global African diaspora in recent years. That has led me to author this brief overview (it is hardly complete) on the comparative impacts of that disapora in some parts of our world, where the diaspora has spread.

Even today the imagery of (and on) Brazil is marked by descriptors such as sensuality, lust, and malice. Characteristics that in other nations are seen as individual character traits, here became inherent to our national identity. What is the meaning of this perpetuity? How has it been sustained in discussions on Brazilianness?

Brazil – marked by “sadness, caused by sexual excess and greed related to gold”

Paulo Prado, proposes an “hypothesis that Brazil is a country marked by sadness, caused by sexual excess and greed related to gold. His reconstruction of the formation of Brazilian society highlights the idea of the bad colonizer (Portuguese) and moral corruption by the African slave”. The discourse of sexual excess as a hallmark of Brazilianness: revisiting Brazilian social thinking in the 1920s and 1930s

The article link is in Messenger and I got to the subheading “Distant equilibrium: the miscegenation debate”

“rejects the interpretation of the indigenous and African rituals as signs of sexual excess – still based on anthropology – stating that these rituals were emblems not of sexual excess, but precisely its lack. He uses as an example the tupinambás practice called membrum virile, which consisted of producing penile swelling by contact with a venomous animal, in order to attract native women. Freyre’s interpretation – contrary to that present in the seventeenth century documents, that the tupinambás were “highly libidinous” and unsatisfied with their virility and, for this reason, wished to increase the size of their genital organs – was that the “savages” used these rituals like aphrodisiacs to create a state of sexual arousal, and thus could not be considered priapic. In contrast, he offers the observation that, among the “civilized,” arousal could be obtained without major mediation, since preoccupation with sex was constant. The sexology of Havellock Ellis appears explicitly in his texts, an inspiration that follows him through various phases of his intellectual biography (Bocayuva, 2001Pallares-Burke, 2005).” 

The same argument is used in the analysis of African rituals, marked by erotic dances. The stigma of “sexual hyperarousal” weighed more heavily on them than on the indigenous groups, as we saw earlier. By deflating the eroticism of Africans, Freyre provides arguments for refuting the hypothesis that Brazilians, predominantly mestizo (feminine in Portuguese) mestiço (masculine in Portuguese) are degenerate, and this is why he devoted a good deal of attention to sexual desire in the plantation house. There was a widespread idea, including in medical works on childhood hygiene, that the sexual life of Brazilians – especially the males – was marked by precocity, induced by the lasciviousness of the slave quarters, or more precisely, of the African women, and not mestizo. Freyre does not disagree with this hypothesis, but gives another explanation for it.

black women sexually corrupted the plantation house, with their racial disposition for sexual overarousal. Freyre did not disagree with the claim that black women sexually interfered in the plantation house, but it was not her race, but rather her status as a slave, her position in the patriarchal landowner-monoculture slaveholder regime that socially and politically formed Brazil, denouncing, ironically, the game of domination that the hypothesis of sexual hyperaesthesia concealed:

Among us, we have seen that Nina Rodrigues considered the mulatto woman to be abnormally sexually overaroused; and even José Veríssimo, ordinarily so sober, described the Brazilian mestizo woman as: ‘a solvent of our physical and moral virility.’ We, the innocent: ‘they, devils dissolving our morals and corrupting our bodies’ (Freyre, 2005, p.462, emphasis in the original).

Gilberto Freyre, whose work Casa-grande e senzala (CGS) broadly influenced the interpretation of Brazilianness, contested a significant portion of the racist arguments that supported Paulo Prado’s arguments.

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