Marginal Acts - new initiatives in performance action on the peripheries of Brazilian culture

Lead Research Organisation: Queen Mary, University of London
Department Name: English


The arts internationally have found new means of productivity that can be formalised into social practices within the so-called Third Sector, creating a cultural economy where value has shifted from what art is to what art does. The urgent crises that affect Brazilian urban society have produced arts initiatives on a scale that has never been imagined within the UK. There is a growing catalogue of arts organisations emerging from the marginal, often improvised communities on the peripheries of major Brazilian cities, and while not all of them are directly orientated towards the resolution of social problems, they are increasingly seen by agencies within civil society as offering viable solutions to situations where the state has resolutely failed. Whether it is in the resolution of conflict, the renewal of the urban landscape, reversal of economic decline, rescue of lives lost to crime/delinquency, the arts are looked to as offering real alternatives to social exclusion and fragmentation. A series of socio-historical factors have produced a context that is extreme, but also a response that sees arts organisations creating intense and complex means of intervention. The Brazilian situation relates to important debates within the UK where what the arts can do has moved from the implicit to the explicit, as the management of social crises is increasingly seen as a validating purpose for artists in the new millennium. This research will look at ways in which these Brazilian initiatives operate and suggest means by which best practice can be shared. The research will investigate the overall context within which such practices are being created, and locate them within historical and contemporary tendencies in Brazilian performance. Brazil has a strong tradition of politically engaged arts practices. On one level this can be traced through the radical movements that emerged in relation to the military dictatorship, such as Tropicália and Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed. At another level, Brazilian popular culture has always been a potential site of opposition, through practices as diverse as capoiera, samba schools, cordel, dramatic dances, etc. Although much of the current work is in direct opposition to the recent effects of globalisation and the specific context of the narco-culture, it draws on at least 500 years of cultural practice as a means of resistance. The research will also focus on one main study: the recent formation of F4 in Rio. Although the issues and responses that are being identified within this research are common to all major Brazilian cities, Rio offers as a particularly rich field of study. The particularity of the geo-political relationship between the official/unofficial city, the iconic status it has both inside and outside Brazil, and the intensity of its cultural outputs, makes it an ideal site for the basis of this research. F4 brings together four of the most important favela-based initiatives in the city: Afroreggae, Nós do Morro, CUFA, Observatory of Favelas. Three of these are based on cultural activities, ranging through classical theatre, Afro-brazilian culture, reggae, rock, rap, hip-hop, circus and dance. The Observatory is a research organisation. Their new joint initiative offers a rare opportunity to study in detail the ways in which the arts can operate and be effective. One of the key points of focus for the research will be on the generic features of these projects and the possibility of their reproduction within Brazilian and UK contexts. I have worked in partnership with Afroreggae and Nós do Morro over the last decade in Brazil and the UK (in partnership with the RSC and the Barbican). Last year, I created an event with MV Bill [leading artist, CUFA] at the Theatre Museum in London, and have also participated in public debates/seminars with the leading researchers at the Observatory of Favalas. I am ideally placed to write on these organisations and the developments of their work.


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Heritage P (2012) The Game Is Violent! Opening Gambits at the Ministry of Culture in Critical Sociology

Title Compilation dvd of performance outputs from the CHANGING THE SCENE programme 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Title Compilation dvd of performance outputs from the STAGING HUMAN RIGHTS programme 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Description The Brazilian Cultura Viva / Pontos de Cultura cultural policy has considerable inspiration to offer to UK academics and practitioners in socially-engaged and transformative arts work
Exploitation Route Huge potential for socially-engaged and transformative arts work

Arts organisations


Local and national government
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Education,Leisure Activities/ including Sports/ Recreation and Tourism,Government/ Democracy and Justice

Description Launch of PPP's POINTS OF CONTACT exchange programme
Amount £83,825 (GBP)
Organisation Arts Council England 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2009 
End 10/2010
Description Book launch and panel discussion for 'Intense Dreams: reflections on Brazilian culture and performance' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Book launch and panel discussion at Brazilian Embassy during July 2009 sparked discussion both immediately afterwards and in the ensuing 4 years (culminating in the publication of an edited translation of Celio Turino's "The Point of Culture" in 2013).

Book launch and panel discussion at Brazilian Embassy during July 2009 led to a meeting between Paul Heritage, Celio Turino, Mick Elliott (DCMS), Moira Sinclair and Alan Davey (Arts Council England) which generated a four year strategic cultural artistic & policy exchange programme, Points of Contact, jointly funded by ACE, British Council and Brazilian Ministry of Culture.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009