Background


In March 2012 I will be travelling to Salvador, Bahia, where capoeira has been played most and most consistently, to investigate how security is distributed through capoeira.
Using methods derived from ethnomusicology, I will examine the extra-linguistic references made in the movement, music and values of capoeira. I will analyse how these function within the game of capoeira and how they have extended their influence beyond the game: how capoeira adepts have proteted their interests and increased their power. This analysis will be placed within the debate on security, providing insights into the perspective of the weaker party and how security relates to freedom and power. 


What is capoeira? & security?
Capoeira is a game, a dance, a fight, music and a way of life. It is played by two people surrounded by a ring of musicians and fellow-capoeiristas who play instruments and sing. The players exchange kicks and escapes - which are also dance-like - capoeira is beautiful! There are no rules, although there are conventions, and there are no goals or winners - but there is still a point to it. Nestor Capoeira in his Little Capoeira Book gives this description:

“Capoeira is the culture of the oppressed! It was created… by men enslaved in Africa and brought to Brazil. It was further developed by men living in the underworld of banditry and on the margins of an extremely unfair society during the 19th and 20th century…
“Facing a stronger opponent who controlled the power and made the laws, capoeira had to learn to be flexible and avoid confrontations… Capoeira learned the guerrilla way of fighting…It learned the value of lies and deceit, of ambush, surprise and treason…
“One does not block a kick in capoeira; on the contrary, one goes along with it, thus avoiding the blow, and then counterattacking.
Life is much more than just winning or surviving - it involves the joy of being alive" (p36-7)


Security studies has been dominated by the opposite end of the political spectrum. The theory and policy of security was traditionally concerned with the nation state and the threat of the use of force. Since the end of the Cold War and particularly since the UNDP's definition of Human Security as freedom from fear and freedom from want in 1994, a plethora of threats and security actors have been identified or generated. The discussion has taken place primarily in the USA and northern Europe and has tended to assume strategic rationality. This research aims to incorporate the perspective of the weaker, which is characteristically tactical in its approach.

As a starting point, I am accepting that security relates to interests and power bases, and I am using Fierke's definition, according to which security "assumes a field of relationships, including a threatener, the threatened, the protector or means of protection, and the protected" (2007, 46). These two elements are helpful in maintaining the possibility of conflict between agendas and in focusing on a relational dynamic, which is useful when assessing how security has been distributed.


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