“Wesolowski mobilizes decades of movement experience—through diverse styles of physical training as well as through diverse cultural contexts—to explore the convivência of capoeira: the ways in which it choreographs relationships across difference (of race, class, gender, nation, and more). Through her always engaging and often moving personal narrative, one slowly forms an understanding of the nuances and complexities of that dance.”—Barbara Browning, author of Samba: Resistance in Motion
“A page-turner and a great example of ethnographic writing that shows not only how an art form has changed over time but how people also change with art.”—Gladys Mitchell-Walthour, author of The Politics of Blackness: Racial Identity and Political Behavior in Contemporary Brazil
“In Wesolowski’s love letter to capoeira, we see, hear, and feel the convivência that emerges through extended intersubjective and embodied dialogue. Capoeira appears not only as a portal through which practitioners imagine and bring into being alternative worlds, but also as a complex and transnational infrastructure, one that travels through people and through which people travel. Ethnographic memoir at its best!”—Deborah A. Thomas, author of Political Life in the Wake of the Plantation: Sovereignty, Witnessing, Repair
This book is freely available in an open access edition thanks to TOME (Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem)—a collaboration of the Association of American Universities, the Association of University Presses, and the Association of Research Libraries—and the generous support of Duke University. Available here.
Originating in the Black Atlantic world as a fusion of dance and martial art, capoeira was a marginalized practice for much of its history. Today it is globally popular. This ethnographic memoir weaves together the history of capoeira, recent transformations in the practice, and personal insights from author Katya Wesolowski’s thirty years of experience as a capoeirista.
Capoeira Connections follows Wesolowski’s journey from novice to instructor while drawing on her decades of research as an anthropologist in Brazil, Angola, Europe, and the United States. In a story of local practice and global flow, Wesolowski offers an intimate portrait of the game and what it means in people’s lives. She reveals camaraderie and conviviality in the capoeira ring as well as tensions and ruptures involving race, gender, and competing claims over how this artful play should be practiced. Capoeira brings people together and yet is never free of histories of struggle, and these too play out in the game’s encounters.
In her at once clear-sighted and hopeful analysis, Wesolowski ultimately argues that capoeira offers opportunities for connection, dialogue, and collaboration in a world that is increasingly fractured. In doing so, capoeira can transform lives, create social spheres, and shape mobile futures.
Katya Wesolowski is lecturing fellow of cultural anthropology and dance at Duke University.
Publication of this work is also supported by a Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.