Laughter Out of Place

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Laughter Out of Place by Mind Map: Laughter Out of Place

1. Chapter 3: Color-Blind Erotic Democracies, Black Consciousness Politics, and the Black Cinderellas of Felicidade Eterna

1.1. Race and Class in Brazil in the United States

1.1.1. Americans don't think much about class relations because many believe in the myth of a meritocracy, where if you simply work hard enough you achieve anything. "North Americans readily engage in debates about forms of race-based affirmative action but rarely engage in debates about the possibility of class-based affirmative action." (page 103) Race is generally linked to class.

1.1.2. People are not comfortable with discussing racism in Brazil. There were never are civil rights movements like in the United States.

1.1.3. Even though Brazil has a history of slavery, people in Brazil see it as a class problem and not a race problem. However, racism is heavily present, especially when it comes to wages.

1.1.4. Brazilians with lighter skin have better chances at succeeding in life. They are presented with more opportunities while darker skinned Brazilians are often discriminated against.

1.1.5. "Mixed-race or black women with certain whitened characteristics are appreciated for their beauty and sensuality, while the majority of low-income mixed race and black women are barred from economic and social mobility." (page 118)

1.1.6. There is a hierarchy of beauty in Brazil as there is in the United States. "Black or African characteristics, such as kinky hair and flat noses, are considered ugly." (page 121) Gloria's oldest son Felix was often teased for his features. Thy believed it set him up for failure. Gloria's friend, Isadora, wants her two daughters with "white features" to go into modeling.

1.1.7. Despite the proof, Brazilians like Gloria and her friends do not believe the standards are racist.

2. Introduction

2.1. Went to the favelas (also known as shantytowns) of Rio as a "participant-observer."

2.2. Despite the extreme poverty and corruption from their government, Goldstein still heard laughter throughout the shantytown.

2.2.1. "This humor was a kind of running commentary about the political and economic structures that made up the context within which the people of Rio's shantytowns made their lives." (page 2)

2.2.2. "I found that humor... opened up a window onto the complicated consciousness of lives that were burdened by their place within the racial, class, gender, and sexual hierarchies that inform their social world." (page 3-4)

2.2.3. "Humor is a vehicle for expressing sentiments that are difficult to communicate publicly or that point to areas of discontent in social life." (page 5)

2.2.4. "Humor was often a survivalist response to the vicissitudes of life." (page 6)

2.2.5. Black humor was used by the poor against the wealthier classes.

2.3. Women in Rio

2.3.1. Popular culture considered "largely oral" (page 4)

2.3.2. Though they did not express it directly, one could see the plight of women through their humor.

2.3.3. Humor gave voice to those who were impoverished in Rio, especially women who were seen as beneath men. It was used to hide the pain they felt.

3. Chapter 1: Laughter "Out of Place"

3.1. First met Gloria, caretaker of 14 children, in 1991.

3.1.1. Her sister Celina died in 1985 so she took in her 5 children. Also took in her former lover's children.

3.2. First Arrival

3.2.1. First traveled to Brazil in 1990 for dissertation research.

3.2.2. The New Year's celebration joined together people of all races, classes, gender.

3.2.3. "Rio has long been known as a city of contrast. Poverty, inequality, racism, and violence are everywhere." (page 27)

3.3. Scholar in Training

3.3.1. Goldstein started as a Latin Americanist scholar in training at Cornell University. Her plan was to study class relations and religious affiliation in Salvador, Bahia. Became inspired by Brazil after more awareness grew about Brazil as well as the AIDS epidemic.

3.4. Carnival: The Ephemerality of Laughter and Forgetting

3.4.1. Inspired by Guillermoprieto's book "Samba" to focus on disenfranchised populations, specifically the women living in shantytowns in Brazil.

3.4.2. "Anthropologists and others have long argued that Carnival is central to Brazilian consciousness." (page 31) It is the one time when people forget about the oppression and poverty and come together to enjoy themselves. Gloria and her friends were unable to participate in Carnival activities since they could not afford costumes. Suggested Goldstein focus on shantytowns rather than Carnival. "The everyday humor of Gloria and her friends and family is in many ways carnivalesque. It makes fun of the wealthy, but it also pokes fun at the miserable circumstances in which they find themselves." (page 34)

3.5. Habits of Class and Domination

3.5.1. "Laughter reveals fault lines in social relations." (page 35)

3.5.2. Hard to understand the humor from the outside looking in. In other societies, they tend to deal with pain head-on through grieving, counseling, etc. Soneca laughed about her brother Zeca's death in spite of the fact he had sickle cell anemia and was very ill. As he died, the doctors "did nothing but smoke cigarettes and watch as he died." (page 39) Celina's husband used the same black humor after she died but thought only their baby died. Goldstein did not understand the humor but learned to go along with it anyway in order to gain the full experience of life for Gloria and her family.

3.6. Brazil's History

3.6.1. Largest slave economy in the world Many years of oppression carried on to present times

3.6.2. Never developed a well-rounded or diversified economy

3.6.3. Today there are extreme difference in people that live within a few miles of each other. Example: Gloria and her friend Power structure is very off-balanced

4. Chapter 2: The Aesthetics of Domination

4.1. Gloria and her daughter Soneca are working for a new employer, "Dona Beth," when Goldstein returns.

4.1.1. Beth is troubled by a letter from her daughter stating that she wants more independence. Gloria and Soneca find it amusing and begin to laugh. Gloria found Beth's problems to be minor and therefore humorous. She would love for her children to desire o be independent. In Brazil, Afro-Brazilian women were discriminated against and had to deal with unequal pay. Brazilians who appeared to fill the right standard of beauty were able to secure decent paying jobs with adequate pay. "Domestic work, one of the few employment opportunities readily accessible to them, is distinguished by the fact that it is both one of the lowest-paying jobs available and is filled disproportionately by Afro-Brazilian women." (page 60)

4.2. The Struggle to Earn a Living Wage

4.2.1. The minimum wage in Brazil is much like the minimum wage in the United States. It does not allow people to live a comfortable life. If Gloria had not found work in Beth's home, she would have been working at least two jobs to support her family.

4.2.2. "The system demands that domestic work b the lowest paid, affordable to even the lowest ranks of the middle classes, since it is ad of itself a distinguishing feature of a middle class life." (page 66) Hiring a domestic worker isn't necessary, but it's seen as a "class marker" or a way to impress others. It shows status. Most domestic workers are women, predominately Afro-Brazilian. The middle class is supposed to support the economy and is a major part in its success. However it's also "defined by its ability to pay somebody else to do its manual labor." (page 67) In many ways they mimic the upper class. Both classes feel as if housework should be left t domestic workers.

4.3. Class, Culture, and the Effects of Domination

4.3.1. "The domestic worker-employer relationship merits closer attention precisely because it is one of the rare place where relations of intimacy take place despite the class gap that characterizes Brazil's 'social apartheid.'" (page 71) The workers seemed to know more about the employers' lives than the employers knew about the workers' lives.

4.4. From Slavery to Servitude

4.4.1. During her childhood, Gloria and her family worked on a large farm. Her family lived in a hut. When they moved to Rio de Janeiro, her mother became a domestic worker which started the tradition. Gloria, even as a child, understood she as very similar to a slave. Workers were not allowed to eat the same food as their employers. Previously, they could eat whatever they wanted.

4.5. Colonial Rio de Janeiro

4.5.1. "The history of Rio de Janeiro has been intimately connected to the lives of slaves, ex-slaves, and domestic workers since the beginning of the colonial period." (page 73)

4.5.2. Domestic workers were always known for taking care of the dirty work.

4.6. The Laughter of a Community

4.6.1. Telenovelas are often watched in Brazil. During tragic scenes of the elites, Gloria and the others would laugh. "The tragedies of the elites depicted in the telenovelas tended to fall n deaf ears." (page 101)

5. Chapter 4: No Time for Childhood

5.1. Gloria had her first son Pedro as a young teenage girl with Gerson, a man she lived with for five years.

5.1.1. Pedro died after becoming involved in a drug-trafficking gang in Rocinha.

5.1.2. Gerson wasn't around to be a father to Pedrio, so Gloria laughed when he cried about his death. "Gloria abruptly ended their brief encounter, telling Gerson that 'tears were not going to bring him back.'" (page 137)

5.2. A Visit with Pedro Paulo at Ilha Grande Prison

5.2.1. Pedro, age 30, was serving a 15 year sentence for armed robbery

5.2.2. Pedro had a girlfriend who was pregnant with his child. She wanted to have an abortion but he threatened to kill her. Pedro believes in many double standards when it comes to men and women. "For Pedro Paulo, the job of the man is to put the food on the table for his family, and as long as this is taken care of, it is fine for him to have as many women as he wants- as long as they 'don't lack anything," of course." (page 140) She later gave birth to a son, Raul.

5.2.3. During the visit, Pedro's cellmate Adhmar tried to make sexual advances toward Goldstein. "While a bad event is happening, the moment is not funny at all, but when it is over and time has passed, that same event is subject to being made the source of humor." (page 142)

5.2.4. When Pedro Paulo was released from prison, he went back to his gang lifestyle. He died a few months later in a shootout. Gloria barely cried because she tried for years to change him. He scorned his mother's honest living. He saw it as slavery.

5.3. The Killing Streets

5.3.1. 200,000 Brazilian children live on the streets and are subject to violence.

5.3.2. Children depicted as innocent victims or dangerous criminals.

5.4. Home Children, Street Children, and Institutionalized Children

5.4.1. Street children have been a major issue in Brazil for years. Many children are recruited by gangs. "As the number of street children has grown, the middle and upper classes have begun to view these youths as bandits and have accommodated to the idea of urban death squads 'cleansing' the streets of the most bothersome of them." (page 149) Middle and upper class people will allow street children to wash their cars or will toss them a few coins.

5.4.2. "Children are increasingly important in Brazilian discourse about urban violence because they are often recruited to do the dirty work of organized urban favela gangs." (page 148)

5.4.3. Some children are out in the streets begging or working for money for their families.

5.5. Childhood, Oppositional Culture, and the Idea of Resistance

5.5.1. As a child, Pedro felt comfortable in the streets. "He was seduced by the idea of 'easy money," a concept that honest workers often use in expressing the ethos of those whom they perceive ass banditos." (page 170)

5.5.2. "In Rio's poor neighborhoods, homicide is the leading cause of death for young men between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four." (page 170)

6. Chapter 5: State Terror, Gangs, and Everyday Violence in Rio de Janiero

6.1. Crime and Violence in Rio de Janiero

6.1.1. Rio de Janeiro is considered a city of extremes- the people are either very poor or very rich. "Rio is one of the most unequal cities in the world." (page 175)

6.1.2. "The middle- and upper-class preoccupation with crime is apparent in the never-ending 'talk of crime' which 'feeds a circle in which fear is both dealt with and reproduced.'" (page 175) This talk of crime helps to feed the stereotypes and prejudices against the poor of Brazil. Many of them are portrayed as criminals.

6.1.3. "Levels of daily violence and suffering in the city are experienced differently according to class, race, gender, and location." (page 177)

6.2. An Overview of Gangs

6.2.1. Gangs are involved in many aspects of life in Brazil Example: family and lover's feuds, local police, other gangs, etc.

6.2.2. "Middle class and elite drug consumption and the international drug trade ultimately fuel gang activity." (page 179)

6.2.3. Gangs are seen as a home for many poor young men. "They offer a place of belonging and a sense of identity that low-paying service sector employment does not provide." (page 179) "They had watched older men work a lifetime at backbreaking jobs for low wages, and many of them had opted quite consciously for the life of a gang member." (page 179)

6.3. Drug-Trafficking Gangs in the Rio Context

6.3.1. Residents of Rio's favelas have to deal with the heavy presence of gangs as well as the police's poor treatment. Many of them see all poor as criminals. "The presence of gangs in the favelas has provide legal and moral justification for the government's use of excessive force." (page 180)

6.3.2. In the favelas, drug chiefs are seen as powerful and important figures. They help with employment for children and housing and/or cash for emergencies.

6.4. Police bandits: corrupt police officers who are at times seen as worse than the gangs.

6.5. Alternative Justice in the "Brown Zones"

6.5.1. Blue zones: "areas that have a high degree of state presence, effective bureaucracy, and a properly functioning legal system." (page 198)

6.5.2. Green zones: "high degree of territorial penetration and a lower presence of the state in functional and class terms." (page 198)

6.5.3. Brown zones: "very low or negligible state presence in both dimensions." (page 198)

7. Chapter 6: Partial Truths, or the Carnivalization of Desire

7.1. Sexuality in the Context of Local Culture

7.1.1. Sexuality is heavily present in the culture and it is normal for it to be apart of normal conversation. Many of the elements are considered disturbing.

7.1.2. ""This carnivalization of desire is largely, although not entirely, a masculinist vision of desire and transgression.

7.1.3. For men, Brazil is considered a paradise considering many women show off their bodies.

7.1.4. "While sexual life in North America or Europe has been treated as an essentially individual phenomenon, in Brazil it has also emerged as a central issues at a social or cultural level."

7.1.5. Sexual joking or teasing is a normal act in social interactions and relations in Brazil. It is done by both young and old people. Gloria's religious mother even shared a dream about her late husband's penis.

7.2. The Carnivalization of Desire

7.2.1. "There is a sense of bodily liberation, expressed in body language, dress, flirtation, and exuberant dance that grounds Carioca bodies differently from North American or Western European bodies." (page 232)

7.2.2. Public flirtation is considered a part of the norm in Brazil. It's not considered objectifying women.

7.3. Ethnography: Local Sexual Culture in Felicidade Eterna

7.3.1. Eating or "comer" means to consume another person sexually. Usually a man eats a woman. Women are considered more passive when it comes to sex so there are considered the receivers.

7.3.2. Women who have too many sexual partners by society's standards are called "galinhas" (chickens) or piranhas. Both terms have a negative meaning behind it.

7.3.3. According to their culture, men are able to fool around with other women. Women, on the other hand, are expected to be loyal.

7.3.4. "Among working-class Cariocas, it is considered unhealthy for men to go too long without sex: it can provoke insanity." (page 243) Boys are encouraged to become seducers.

7.3.5. There is a double standard when it comes to sexuality. It is believed that naturally, men should have access to sex as they please. Gloria, along with many other parents, want their daughters to remain virgins for as long as they can. This is because of the risk of pregnancy and having another mouth to feed.

8. Chapter 7: What's So Funny about Rape?

8.1. An Evening of Terror in Duque de Caxias

8.1.1. Rape seems to be a topic completely off limits to humor but this is not the case for Gloria's family.

8.1.2. Two armed robbers broke into the home or Gloria's boyfriend. Her family was living with him at the time. The robbers raped Anita (Gloria's daughter) and Claudia (Gloria's niece). Gloria tried to stop the men and her boyfriend as well. Gloria's family did not approve of her friend Ignacio's attempt. His watch was stolen.

8.1.3. When telling the story, Soneca began with a punchline. She claimed that because Anita had already lost her virginity, it did not hurt as much as it did Claudia who was still a virgin. "Claudia was crying all the time. Claudia is the one who suffered the most, right?" (page 265) Soneca believed Anita's cries were exaggerated.

8.2. Battling Mothers and Daughters

8.2.1. "Women often find themselves escaping one form of victimization in their lives by entering another, often equally troublesome, situation. Anita discovered she was pregnant shortly after and Gloria believed it was as a result of the rape. She immediately helped her abort the baby. The father was actually Anita's boyfriend Gabriel, whom she had been sexually active with. Anita was afraid to tell Gloria.

8.3. A Note on the Legal Universe and Rape

8.3.1. Humor is linked to rape as a result of women not receiving help from the justice system. It is a way of coping.

8.3.2. Lower class women often claim to be virgins in order for their charges to be taken seriously.

8.3.3. "Humor can only be understood in its place and place is always circumscribed by relations of class, gender, race, and sexuality."