Department of Spanish and Portuguese
Department of Spanish and Portuguese

Omoniyi Afolabi

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

Omoniyi Afolabi



Afro-Brazilian Cultural Studies, Afro-Latin American and African Studies;Yoruba Diaspora 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.


POR 328C • Intro To Lit & Cul

46725 • Fall 2014
Meets TTH 930am-1100am BEN 1.102

Taught in Portuguese. Overview of Luso-Brazilian literatures and cultures, including the arts and popular expressions from a multidisciplinary perspective. Among the regions studied are Brazil, Portugal, and related areas in Africa. Latin American Studies 322 and 370P may not both be counted unless the topics vary.

POR F341 • Afro-Bra: Lit/Cul/Pol Ag-Bra

88405 • Summer 2013

POR 341

Summer 2007, Salvador, Bahia



The purpose of this six week course is to analyze the literary, cultural and social representation of Afro-Brazilians (blacks and mulattoes) from 1800s to contemporary authors. After a brief introduction of the histories of resistance against slavery in colonial times (quilombos), the course will focus on Nineteenth century literatures on and about Afro-Brazilians with an emphasis on Nineteenth century black rebellions (Malês), and the contradictions of abolitionist literature. The first four decades of the twentieth century will focus on modernismo-regionalista literatures, to criticize views of Brazilian racial democracy and the contradictions of Populist depictions of Afro-Brazilians. The last part of the course will focus on contemporary works written by Afro-Brazilian authors, from the social emergence of Abdias do Nascimento “Movimento Negro” to contemporary narratives, music and documentaries which main focus are the cultures of poverty, abandonment, violence in the inner cities, and social discrimination. The course will include cultural tours around main cultural sites in Salvador, Bahia. The course will be taught in Portuguese (readings in English and Portuguese) and will include documentaries and film in Portuguese (or with English subtitles). Students will write a 10 page final paper in Portuguese. The topic will be chosen by the student with the assistance of Prof. Arroyo.


The class will meet from Monday to Thursday (10-12) in ACBEU.

Thursdays and Friday afternoons will be used for tours. Please check your calendars. Attendance is mandatory. All materials are required. One 10 page paper will be presented at the end of the six week period. Two themes, students choose one.


Books (required):

João J. Reis, Black Rebellions in Brazil. The Muslims uprisings of 1835 in Bahia (Amazon)


Luso-Brazilian Books:

Guimãraes Bernardo. A escrava Isaura.

Caminha, Adolfo. Bom crioulo.

Amado, Jorge. Tenda dos milagres.

Rui Gomes. O Pagador de promessas.



One course pack available at Speedway Copy and Printing (Dobie Mall) (Pquete inclui Leituras críticas e Quarto de despejo, Joanna Carolina de Jesus)

PRC 320E • Afro-Luso-Brazilian Worlds

46120 • Spring 2013
Meets MWF 200pm-300pm BEN 1.126
(also listed as AFR 372E, LAS 370P)

The notion of a “Portuguese commonwealth” has always been an imperial desire of Portugal to the extent of justifying conquest and subjugation in the so-called “colonies” through varying tropical mythologies. Even after independence, Portugal continued to exercise tremendous cultural and political influences on its former colonies, including Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, and Cape Verde. This course engages some of the myths and realities in the Afro-Luso-Brazilian worlds while at the same time drawing connections and contrasts between them. In addition to a contextual survey of the “triangle”, we will examine some of the strategies adopted by the colonized to decolonize their minds through interdisciplinary case studies. Drawing upon a mix of theoretical, cultural, historical, sociological, and literary readings, we will tease out the vibrant affinities and/or tensions between Africa and Brazil, Africa and Portugal, Brazil and Portugal, Portugal and Asia, etc. We will foreground our discussions with the concepts of Luso-Tropicalism and Postcolonialism while reflecting on the myth of racial harmony in the Lusophone Atlantic world.

POR 381 • Ritual/Theater/Race In Brazil

46238 • Spring 2013
Meets MWF 100pm-200pm CLA 0.124


In an era in which racial and violent acts of domination persist albeit camouflaged under the pretext of operating in a fallacious “multicultural,” “miscegenated,” and “post-racial” society, ritual performance or what Wole Soyinka calls “The Fourth Stage” brings about restorative justice in the midst of cosmic chaos.  As heroes or/and heroines descend into the transitional gulf, they return transformed and regenerated after going through performative rites of passage.  In the Afro-Brazilian context, ritual performance captures those strategies through which the oppressed liberate themselves from the fangs of slavery and its disempowering aftermath.  Drawing upon the theories of Augusto Boal (Poética do oprimido), Anatol Rosenfeld (O mito e o herói no moderno teatro brasileiro), Leda Maria Martins (A cena em sombras) as well as from the objectives of the Teatro Experimental do Negro (TEN) as propounded by Abdias Nascimento, this seminar examines the relationship between race and theatrical practices in post-1945 Brazil.  In addition to exploring the historical panorama of modern Brazilian theater as a whole, we will focus on its experimental emergence, its problematic professionalization, and systematic popularization over the decades. For primary dramatic analysis, we will study a selection of plays by TEN such as Sortilégio, O filho pródigo, Anjo negro, and Emparedado—all taken from the classical anthology, Dramas para negros e prólogos para brancos—highlighting the risks, polemics, accomplishments, and contradictions of the group as they represented the politics and aesthetics of the theatrical moment and movement. We will also study other dramatic works such as Orfeu da Conceição,  Eles não usam black tie, Arena conta Zumbi, O tesouro da Chica da Silva, and O pagador de Promessas, situating them within Brazilian historical, political, and mythological realities.


1. Provide a critical historical survey of modern Brazilian theater while highlighting the exclusive/inclusive place of the Afro-Brazilian within that space.

2. Examine the objectives of TEN and its significance in Brazilian theatrical history and politics.

3. Engage a number of concepts and theories within Afro-Brazilian dramatic discourse such as mythology, heroism, ritual performance, and the “poetics of the oppressed” which will equip students in the configuration and elaboration of their individual research projects.

Required Texts:

  1. Abdias Nascimento: Dramas para negros e prólogos para brancos
  2. Vinicius de Moraes: Orfeu da Conceição
  3. Augusto Boal: Poética do oprimido
  4. Anatol Rosenfeld: O mito e o herói no moderno teatro brasileiro
  5. Leda Maria Martins: A cena em sombras
  6. Miriam Garcia Mendes: O negro e o teatro brasileiro
  7. Antônio Callado: A revolta da cachaça (seleta)
  8. Gianfrancesco Guarnieri e Augusto Boal: Arena conta Zumbi
  9. Dias Gomes: O pagador de promessas


David George: The Modern Brazilian Stage


5 Response Papers: 25%; Final Oral Presentation: 20%; Midterm Annotated Bibliography: 15%; Research Proposal: 10%; Final Research Paper: 30% 

POR 329 • Lusophone African Lits & Culs

45925 • Spring 2012
Meets MWF 200pm-300pm PAR 303
(also listed as AFR 374E, LAS 370P)

This is a survey course on Lusophone African literatures with particular emphasis on Angola, Mozambique, and Cape Verde Islands. The course focuses on combative struggle that led to the independence of the five nations as well as the new postcolonial tendencies such as ideological subversion, mythification, demythification, remythification, globalization, and resistance in the face of modernity and “post-colonial” disillusion. The course seeks to provide a panoramic view highlighting the common and divergent characteristics between the five.  Beyond the analysis of poems in A Horse of White Clouds: Poems from Lusophone Africa, we will focus on a few select authors such as Mia Couto, Luandino Vieira, Luís Bernardo Honwana, Lina Magaia, Paulina Chiziane, Germano Almeida, etc.


  1. Introduce students to the decisive moments of the literary history of Lusophone Africa.
  2. Analyze representative texts and highlight the thematic, contextual, and ideological issues.
  3. Question the current critical models and propose other more inclusive possibilities. 

Basic Themes:

  • Brief historical contextualization of Portuguese colonialism in Africa.
  • Exotic / colonial / national literatures.
  • Negritude movement, Pan Africanism, and African Personality.
  • Colonial wars; armed struggle; Affirmation of African identity.
  • Insularity, evasion, and anti-evasion.
  • Miscegenation, Lusotropicalism, mulatitude.
  • Colonial indictment and quest for freedom.
  • Slavery; Diaspora, “Contract” work.
  • Critique of the colonial society.
  • Rural vs. urban space.
  • Hope and Anticipation of new order.
  • Counterpoint of independence waves (Civil War—Angola & Mozambique)
  • Comparative perspectives: Africa, Afro-Brazil, Portugal? 


  1. Don Burness (ed.): A Horse of White Clouds: Poems from Lusophone Africa.
  2. José Luandino Vieira: The Real Life of Domingos Xavier.
  3. Luís Bernardo Honwana: We Killed Mangy-Dog.
  4. Lina Magaia: Dumba Nengue: Run for Your Life.
  5. Mia Couto: Voices Made Night.
  6. Germano Almeida: The Last Will of Senhor da Silva Araújo.


  • “Udju Azul de Yonta” (Blue Eyes of Yonta)
  • “Mortu Mega” (Those Whom Death Refused)
  • “O Herói” (The Hero)
  • “Terra Sonâmbula” (Sleepwalking Land)
  • “O Testamento do Sr. Napumoceno” (Napumoceno’s Will)

POR 381 • Carnival In Brazilian Lit/Cul

45850 • Fall 2011
Meets W 330pm-630pm PAR 304




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?  


Portuguese 612, 312L or 516. 


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 carna


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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