Revolt of the Saints

Memory and Redemption in the Twilight of Brazilian Racial Democracy

Revolt of the Saints

Book Pages: 480 Illustrations: 57 illustrations Published: May 2015

Author: John F. Collins

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Latin American Studies > Brazil, Theory and Philosophy > Race and Indigeneity

In 1985 the Pelourinho neighborhood in Salvador, Brazil was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Over the next decades, over 4,000 residents who failed to meet the state's definition of "proper Afro-Brazilianness" were expelled to make way for hotels, boutiques, NGOs, and other attractions. In Revolt of the Saints, John F. Collins explores the contested removal of the inhabitants of Brazil’s first capital and best-known site for Afro-Brazilian history, arguing that the neighborhood’s most recent reconstruction, begun in 1992 and supposedly intended to celebrate the Pelourinho's working-class citizens and their culture, revolves around gendered and racialized forms of making Brazil modern. He situates this focus on national origins and the commodification of residents' most intimate practices within a longer history of government and elite attempts to "improve" the citizenry’s racial stock even as these efforts take new form today. In this novel analysis of the overlaps of race, space, and history, Collins thus draws on state-citizen negotiations of everyday life to detail how residents’ responses to the attempt to market Afro-Brazilian culture and reimagine the nation’s foundations both illuminate and contribute to recent shifts in Brazil’s racial politics.


"The rich and multifaceted analysis Collins presents in this book is sure to be of interest to a wide range of readers. Its highly original and provocative analysis of heritage politics and memory, as well as racial politics in Brazil, makes it a must-read for scholars in these fields. In addition, the book has much to offer to a readership concerned with urban poverty and government efforts to address it, tourism, and the deep entanglements of social scientific scholarship with local politics of culture, race, history, and morality. Finally, the manner in which Collins translates sensitive ethnographic research and description into thought-provoking theoretical insight speaks directly to recent anthropological discussions on ethnographic theorization." — Elina I. Hartikainen, Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology

"...remarkably iconoclastic analysis of race, space, and history.... ethnography that invades the minds and stirs the guts of all those involved in its contents and consumption." — Nubia Bento Rodrigues, AAG Review of Books

"This is indeed a gringo who knows his Brazil; the analysis is laced with poetry, with the plots of classic novels, with smells, odd recollections, postcards, music, maps, numerous black-and-white photographs, and with emotion—including a millennial version of the sadness of the tropics..." — Robin E. Sheriff, Journal of Anthropological Research

"There can be little doubt... that this important book will long remain a touchstone for future research on the perils of top-down management of a vulnerable community’s cultural heritage." — Michael F. Brown, International Journal of Cultural Property

"[An] extraordinarily detailed and theoretically imaginative exploration of how elite and nonelite ideas of Afro-Bahian history and identity coincide, collide, and mutually refract in the decades both before and after the UNESCO declaration." — John Burdick, American Ethnologist

"[Revolt of the Saints] succeeds in disturbing conventional platitudes about race and history in the construction of a Brazilian national identity. It is theoretically subtle, methodologically extraordinary, and adds a healthy dose of cynicism to the vast and often starry-eyed ethnography of black people in Bahia." — Brian Brazeal, Anthropological Quarterly

"Collins’s book is a Caribbean pepperpot stew, an ongoing accretion of ingredients simmered for long periods. It is mature, flavourful, surprising and rewarding. Its constant reflexive re-framings and maze-like progressions fascinate, and occasionally produce an Alice-through-the-looking-glass sense of (not unpleasurable) disorientation." — Peter Wade, Journal of Latin American Studies

"With this book John F. Collins explores the possibilities of ethnography in a very elegant and sensorial way,
without neglecting to offer a novel and very well-illustrated approach to the contemporary politics of patrimony and how it ties with racial politics, turning race from quality into a historical and historicised property." — Susana Boletas, Social Anthropology

"[Collins's] retelling of the contemporary reconstruction of the Pelourinho is imaginative and unconventional. . . . Collins enriches our understanding of contemporary shifts in Bahian racial politics." — Andrew Britt, H-LatAm, H-Net Reviews

"This is a very rich ethnography filled with a large cast of characters who bring to life the national struggles over race, history, and citizenship in Brazil." — Marshall C. Eakin, EIAL

“This remarkable book provides a rich model for further studies examining the process of heritage-making and how national and international institutions interacted with local populations in other parts of the world. . . . A crucial book for scholars and graduate students in various disciplines working on topics related to urban history and cultural heritage.” — Ana Lucia Araujo, Luso-Brazilian Review

“An expansive ethnography.”

— Brodwyn Fischer, Latin American Research Review

"Honest, engaged, and theoretically informed, Revolt of the Saints will take its place among the very best ethnographies of recent years. It represents original thinking of the first order and committed engagé scholarship. John F. Collins manages not only to produce a remarkable account of the multiple and changing ways that race and history matter in Bahia, but he also gives us all a lesson in the production of history and of historical memory. It's a book that readers won't soon forget." — Richard Price, author of Travels with Tooy and Rainforest Warriors

"Written as a reflection founded in twenty years of personal engagements in Salvador da Bahia’s Pelourinho district, John Collins’ deeply thoughtful book is an anthropology of suffering and sacralization that offers a novel and richly illustrated approach to the contemporary politics of patrimony and the objectification of history." — Claudio Lomnitz, author of The Return of Comrade Ricardo Flores Magón

"Many of us have been awaiting this book for some time. And the wait has been more than worth it. Based on more than twenty-five years living and working, first as artisan and since the mid-l990s as ethnographer, John F. Collins has been an extraordinary and ever-present witness to the making and remaking of the heritage zone of Brazil’s Pelourinho—and to those who have been recruited to embody its promise, bear its history, and wear its sign. But Collins does far more than offer the underside of the production and uses of the past in Brazil today. He asks how people poised at once as the violent outsiders to the nation and exalted as its cherished icons play upon the images and categories assigned to them, rework those images with masterful wit, and defy state and humanitarian imaginaries about who they are and what they should aspire to be. Attuned to deep histories of the present, to racial politics, to sexual craftings of the sensorial and sartorial self—in always fresh and unpredictable ways—Collins could allow us to focus on his own mastery of the ethnographic genre. Instead, he turns us to the visceral affective registers in which people in the Pelourinho bear the weight of privations as they make their claims on the past and on the future, people whose insights, humor, and critique sear the very edges of the images they are called upon to represent." — Ann Laura Stoler, editor of Imperial Debris: On Ruins and Ruination


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

John F. Collins is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Queens College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface and Acknowledgments  ix

Introduction: Being, through the Archive  1

1. "The Eighteenth Battalion of Love": Failure and the Dissemination of Misinterpretation  44

2. Letters to the Amazons  102

3. Prostitution's Bureaucracy: Making Up People in the "City of Women"  141

4. A Metaphysics for Our Time: Pelourinho Properties, Bahian Social Bodies, and the Shifting Meanings of Rams and Fetuses  181

5. Treasure Tales and National Bodies: Mystery and Metaphor in Bahian Life  215

6. "But Madame, What If I Should Need to Defecate in Your Neighborhood?"  266

7. "Chatty Chatty Mouth, You Want to Know Your Culture"  305

Conclusion: Saints, Not Angels  345

Appendix: Acronyms Used  363

Notes  365

References  411

Index  443
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Winner, 2016 Anthony Leeds Prize, presented by the Society for Urban, National, and Transnational Anthropology (American Anthropological Association)

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5320-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5306-5
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