Program in Comparative Literature

Omoniyi Afolabi

Associate ProfessorPh.D, Luso-Brazilian Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Associate Professor of Department of Spanish and Portuguese and the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies
Omoniyi Afolabi



Lusophone Atlantic Triangle; Yoruba Diaspora Studies; Afro-Brazilian Cultural Studies; Lusophone African Literature; Comparative African Diaspora Studies; Latin American Cultural Studies


Niyi Afolabi teaches Luso-Brazilian, Yoruba, and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin—in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and African and African Diaspora Studies Department.  He is an Affliate of the Warfield Center for African and African American Studies. He is the author of The Golden Cage: Regeneration in Lusophone African Literature and Culture, Afro-Brazilians: Cultural Production in a Racial Democracy, and editor of The Afro-Brazilian Mind and Marvels of the African World, among others. His scholarly interests range from Afro-Latin American and African studies (Lusophone Africa, Brazil, and Portugal) and Latin American studies, to broader issues of cultural studies, transnationalism, migrations, and exile. Through focused case studies or comparative approaches, he has published in the areas of culture, literature, and religion, drawing parallels between the centrality of Yoruba mythology in the African diaspora as well as the place of the African cosmological and strategic essences in the New World or global studies. Niyi Afolabi’s current research focuses on the interface between literature, historicism, and culture studies with particular focus on Afro-Brazil.


C L 386 • Carnival In Brazilian Lit/Cul

33607 • Fall 2016
Meets TH 500pm-800pm BEN 1.118
(also listed as AFR 381, ILA 388, LAS 392P)


This course interrogates the relationship between the rituals of carnival, the interfacial myths of celebration and renewal, and the complex dynamics of inclusive exclusion that the event represents for marginalized populations, who, ironically, bear the burden of the actual bacchanal. The course focuses on the interrogation of how this singular event serves as a duality of “masking” and “negotiation of power” for both the oppressed and the oppressor in literature and culture.  Beyond this panoramic foreground regarding origins and transformations, the course will examine the representation(s) of carnival in literature and popular culture from the viewpoint of performance and cultural theory.  Case studies of Schools of Samba in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Blocos Afros as well as Afoxés in Salvador-Bahia will also be explored in order to have a balanced comparative perspective on the multiple dynamics of carnival as a political cultural space.

Some of the questions the course attempts to answer include: i. What are the paradigmatic discourses on carnival in Brazil and in the African diaspora? ii. To what extent is carnival an all-inclusive phenomenon where everyone participates without regard to social hierarchies and racial discrimination?  Is it really possible to “neutralize” social hierarchies in a patriarchal and marginalizing space in which blackness still represents the “marginal” other?  iii. What are the main pretexts and realities of performing and engaging carnival in a space that is economically and structurally controlled by hegemonic forces? iv. In contrasting and comparing the main arguments (for or against), what are the popular and epistemological orientations that shape carnival as a “collective” performance in which participants can propagate their own individuality through political masking? v. Is there an absolute conviction on the possibility of an alternative or paradigmatic shift that evokes both relative nostalgia of Africa and the disillusionment of Afro-descendants in the enigmatic Brazilian mosaic? vi. How is this space redefined shortly after the ephemeral cultural performance?


Course will be taught in Portuguese but students will be able to write their final papers in Portuguese, Spanish, or English. The final grade will be based on 5 short papers (30%), active class participation (15%), a midterm presentation (15%), a research proposal (10%) and a final research paper (30%).


Texts for critical analysis will include Mikhail Bakhtin’s A cultura popular na idade média, Mircea Eliade’s O sagrado e o profano, Anatol Rosenfeld’s O mito e o herói no moderno teatro brasileiro, Zeca Ligeiro’s Malandro divino, Jorge Amado’s O país do carnaval, Roberto da Matta’s Carnavais, malandros e heróis, Ruy Castro’s Carnaval no fogo, Vinicius de Moraes’ Invenção do Orfeu, Moacyr Scliar’s O carnaval dos animais, and Wilson Louzada’s Contos de carnaval


Afolabi, O. (2009) Afro-Brazilians: Cultural Production in a Racial Democracy. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press.

Afolabi, O. (2008) Cadernos Negros/ Black Notebooks: Afro-Brazilian Literary Movement. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press.
Afolabi, O. (2008) Trans-Atlantic Migration: The Paradoxes of Exile. New York/London: Routledge.
Afolabi, O. (2007) Afro-Brazilian Mind/ A Mente Afro-Brasileira: Contemporary Cultural and Critical Criticism. New Jersey: Africa World Press.

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