Esther Viola Kurtz

Assistant Professor of Music

Professor Kurtz’s research addresses the racial politics of Afro-Brazilian music and dance practice communities. Her current book project, Luta Bonita [Beautiful Fight]: The Racial Politics of Capoeira Angola in Backland Bahia, is an ethnography exploring how diverse practitioners interpret the racial politics of capoeira Angola, an Afro-Brazilian music-movement form. Black activists in Brazil claim capoeira as a spiritual practice of resistance, but they question if increasing white participation undermines capoeira’s liberatory potential. Taking a twofold approach, the book first argues that capoeira practitioners redefine Black humanity from their peripheral locations. Then it examines how white participation still reproduces colonialist tropes of possessing Black culture. By complicating the multiracial community forged through participation in an African diasporic practice, the project offers new insights for effectively building cross-racial alliances mobilized toward redressing racial injustice.