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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Vozes dos Porões: A literatura periférica do Brasil

  • Author(s): Reyes Arias, Alejandro
  • Advisor(s): Rabasa, Jose
  • et al.

Voices from the Basements: Peripheral Literature from Brazil

In the last decade, a growing number of works by authors from urban peripheries, favelas, prisons, and other marginalized spaces has been produced in Brazil. It is for the most part a literature of self-representation with an important social and political dimension, which focuses on the topics of violence, exclusion, exploitation, poverty, and marginalization. Most importantly, it is a literature written by and about populations who have traditionally been excluded from the written word. With very rare exceptions, these populations have never had a voice to convey their own reality — which has up to now been exclusively studied and written about by a lettered, mostly white, middle-class elite — or to participate actively in the country's intellectual production. The impact of this recent production in the media, the publishing market, and academia is therefore significant and calls for a change of paradigm in understanding cultural production and subaltern speech. In addition, the literary phenomenon is accompanied by a wide range of social, cultural, and political initiatives by the cultural activists themselves, pointing to an emerging movement which offers creative alternatives in the context of growing social violence and inequality.

This dissertation studies this cultural production in both its literary and political dimensions, in order to ascertain whether and how this literature challenges both the literary canon and the social status quo and offers new aesthetic and political alternatives to the social crisis.

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