Live, at Thought Catalog, my epically epic interview with Brazilian cultural historian Gunter Axt, in which we range widely over Brazil’s storied history and foundational myths—mash-ups of sacred and secular, high and low culture, European and African and indigenous elements.
As I note in my introduction, Axt, a university professor and public intellectual, is a bracingly original thinker about the Brazilian cultural psyche, yet is also
the sort of Big Thinker who accessorizes his blazer-and-blue jeans costume with an ’80s-ironic necktie studded with Swarovski crystals; who thrills to the sharp-elbowed debates inspired by his appearances on Brazilian TV and his columns for magazines such as Cult and Voto; who exults in conversational hyperlinking, segueing from masculinity and homophobia in Brazil to the role of Afro-Brazilian syncretic religions in the Brazilian cultural unconscious to the myth of Brazil as a post-racial heterotopia versus the racial realities of Brazilian society, with detours—pass the cachaça, will you?—down discursive byways leading to District 9, The Hurt Locker, and Avatar.
In a conversation whose runaway rocket-sled speed manages to make 3000-odd words feel like a blurblet, we touch on the Mexican philosopher José Vasconcelos Calderón’s unclassifiable book Raça Cósmica (The Cosmic Race) and its relevance to racial stratification within Brazilian society; the racial roots of the straight male obsession, in Brazil, with the female booty; “carnival as an escape valve for social pressure in rigidly hierarchical societies”; and American visions of Brazil as a paradise of polyracial perversity, epitomized by a Playboy video starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in Rio, groping mulattas during carnival.
Give your mind a bikini wax. Here.