Performing Diversity: How bodily practices sensitize for difference at an intercultural centre

This postdoctoral research project seeks to understand how collective bodily practices fosters cultural diversity and social integration through at the German-Brazilian intercultural and religious centre “Forum Brasil”, located in Berlin. The institution has become more than a meeting point for Brazilian migrants seeking to reaffirm their cultural identity and to practice the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé outside their country of origin.

Its recent project “Afropolitan” has attracted not only Germans and migrants with African background, but also a broad LGBT community. It seems precisely that what brings visitors from all over the world together in the centre is the possibility of union not despite, but within alterity, by feeling accepted and accepting others regardless of cultural background, gender, ethnicity or religious choice. This is enabled by several sociocultural events and courses held in the centre, most of which consist of music and dance activities.

Ethnographic fieldwork and interviews with the centre’s managers, audiences and religious practitioners support the investigation of the means by which these activities embody and perform principles of openness, multiplicity, inclusiveness and communality. The embodiment of such principles might foster cultural diversity, in the sense that different cultural practices more than accept, exchange with and enrich each other. Furthermore, such transcultural embodiment and exchange seem to contribute to the sustainability of the centre and of the cultural expressions involved through the promotion of social engagement, and, hence, through the strengthening of social cohesion in a multicultural city.

Keywords: Cultural Diversity; Alterity; Performativity; Cultural sustainability.

Funding: HONORS program, Free University of Berlin

Funding Period: March 2018 – February 2019

Mentor: Christoph Wulf