Learning Capoeira: Lessons in Cunning from an Afro-Brazilian Art

Paperback | March 2, 2005

byGreg Downey

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Learning Capoeira: Lessons in Cunning from an Afro-Brazilian Art is a provocative look at capoeira, a demanding acrobatic art that combines dance, ritual, music, and fighting style. First created by slaves, freedmen, and gang members, capoeira is a study in contrasts that integratesAfrican-descended rhythms and flowing dance steps with hard lessons from the street. According to veteran teachers, capoeira will transform novices, instilling in them a sense of malicia, or "cunning," and changing how they walk, hear, and interact. Learning Capoeira is an ethnographic study based on author Greg Downey's extensive research about capoeira and more than ten years of apprenticeship. It looks at lessons from traditional capoeira teachers in Salvador, Brazil, capturing the spoken and unspoken ways in which they pass on the artto future generations. Downey explores how bodily training can affect players' perceptions and social interactions, both within the circular roda, the "ring" where the game takes place, as well as outside it, in their daily lives. He brings together an experience-centered, phenomenological analysisof the art with recent discoveries in psychology and the neurosciences about the effects of physical education on perception. The text is enhanced by more than twenty photos of capoeira sessions, many taken by veteran teacher, Mestre Cobra Mansa. Learning Capoeira breaks from many contemporary trends in cultural studies of all sorts, looking at practice, education, music, nonverbal communication, perception, and interaction. It will be of interest to students of African Diaspora culture, performance, sport, and anthropology. For anyonewho has wondered how physical training affects our perceptions, this close study of capoeira will open new avenues for understanding how culture shapes the ways we carry ourselves and see the world.

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Learning Capoeira: Lessons in Cunning from an Afro-Brazilian Art is a provocative look at capoeira, a demanding acrobatic art that combines dance, ritual, music, and fighting style. First created by slaves, freedmen, and gang members, capoeira is a study in contrasts that integratesAfrican-descended rhythms and flowing dance steps with...

Greg Downey is at University of Notre Dame.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:288 pages, 5.39 × 8.19 × 0.71 inPublished:March 2, 2005Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195176979

ISBN - 13:9780195176971

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Table of Contents

Preface: Prelude: Playing Capoeira1. Inside and Outside the RodaThe Development of CapoeiraBlack Culture in BrazilMobilizing the Black CommunityResisting Sociology, Structures, and SymbolsA Phenomenological Turn in EthnographyPlan of the BookPART 1: LEARNING2. The Significance of SkillsA Capoeira ClassSkill and SensitivityLearning to WalkThe Body's Role in ExperienceLearning to Fall3. Following in a Mestre's FootstepsThe Advent of the AcademyMoving like a MestreImitative LearningCoaching the BananeiraCoaching and Developing SkillsApprenticeship as a Research MethodPART 2: REMEMBERING4. History in Epic RegistersA Notorious History of OutlawsThe Bambas of BahiaThe Closing of the "Heroic Cycle"The Long Struggle for LiberationAfrican Origins and Slave ResistanceThe Tragic Life and Death of Mestre PastinhaAlternative HistoriesHow Histories are Heard5. Singing the Past into PlayThe Song CycleSinging Commentary on the GameMortal Seriousness and PrayerShifting "I" Across TimeAmbiguous Times in SongPlaying in a Poetic ProjectionPART 3: PLAYING6. Hearing the BerimbauThe Capoeira OrchestraMusical InteractionsThe Grain of the BerimbauListening with a Musician's HandsHearing with a Player's BodyThe Social Ability of HearingHearing as a Skill7. Play with a Sinister PastReminders of the PastThe Importance of the ChamadaThe Chamada's Dramatic DynamicPlay and Implied ViolenceThe Sinister Gravity of PlayA Sense of TraditionPART 4: HABITS8. The Rogue's SwaggerThe GingaFundamentals of CunningThe Despised WaistA Swaying StridePosture and Self-TransformationCrying at an Adversary's Feet9. Closing the BodyBecoming Aware of One's OpennessThe Impossibility of ClosingOpening an AdversaryClosing the Body in CandombleSigning the CrossGesture, Posture, and Vulnerability10. Walking in EvilHard Jokes and Cautionary TalesDissembling in a Treacherous WorldThe Sideways GlanceSeeing Through Shifty EyesA Cunning ComportmentPART 5: CHANGES11. The Limits of WhiteningThe Emergence of Capoeira RegionalCritics of Capoeira RegionalBimba's Students and "Whitening"Whitening in BrazilChanges in Movement StyleCapoeira from Middle-Class Bodies12. Tearing Out the ShameHands, Head, and LegsWorking with BodiesReviving Capoeira AngolaBroken Movements, Softened BodiesShame and Its RemovalMoved to ChangeConclusion: Lessons from the RodaPhysical Education as Ethnographic ObjectThe Pragmatism of PracticeEmbodiment and ExperienceNotes: Bibliography: Index:

Editorial Reviews

"This book is about the changes students undergo as they learn the art. The results are striking. Using phenomoenolgical analysis, exploring physiological memory, and the tried and true personal anecdotes, Downey offers testimony that academia's shift to the personal has benefits."--Joshua M.Rosenthal. Latin American Research Review