The Missteps of Anti-Imperialist Reason: Bourdieu, Wacquant, and Hanchard’s Orpheus and Power

Journal Article (Academic article)

Are African and African-American Studies, as defined and practiced in the USA, tools of US cultural imperialism? Are discussions of race, racial inequality or racial oppression in other societies, when carried out by North Americans, to be viewed as ’brutal ethnocentric intrusions’? These are among the central propositions of a vigorous polemic by two French sociologists, Pierre Bourdieu and Loic Wacquant, in a 1999 article entitled ’On the Cunning of Imperialist Reason’. As proof, Bourdieu and Wacquant call attention to the recent transnational scholarly dialogue regarding race in Brazil and denounce the ’imposition’ of an ’American tradition’, ’model’ and ’dichotomy’ of race on Brazil. In particular, they attack as ’ethnocentric poison’ a 1994 monograph by Michael Hanchard on Brazilian ’Black Consciousness’ movements, Orpheus and Power: The Movimento Negro of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Brazil, 1945-1988. This article dissects Bourdieu and Wacquant’s mischaracterization of the current US-Brazilian dialogue on the African diaspora in the New World. It identifies their fundamental missteps and misjudgments, offers a critique of the schematic model of transnational intellectual circulation they offer in the article, and demonstrates their radical misrepresentation of Michael Hanchard’s treatment of questions of race, colour and nation in Brazil. Keywords: African-American, Brazil, diaspora, identity, race, USA

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • French, JD

Published Date

  • February 2000

Published In

  • Theory, Culture, & Society

Volume / Issue

  • 17 /


  • 1

Start / End Page

  • 107 - 128