The Kalaripayattu and the Capoeira as Masculine Performances: From Bodies of Resistance to Neoliberal Tourism Bodies

Indrani Mukherjee, Sanghita Sen


This essay proposes to look at the emergence of two embodied martial arts from Brazil and India as tools of resistance against colonization on one hand while also comprising different kind of masculinities in postcolonial national narratives, on the other. The bodies of African slaves and Kalaripayattu martial artists became the spaces over which the contesting colonial powers met and then wrote their violent histories of dominance and power. These bodies, however, reacted violently through their disguised or secret martial moves, thus creating a counter-narrative with which to write back. Perceived as a threat, they were banned by their colonial masters; modern democratic Brazil and independent India later welcomed them back and ‘flaunted’ them to accommodate them in a deserving space of dignity within their respective national tourism industries.[1]However, today they risk being appropriated by neoliberal and global promoters of hyper-masculinity or by conservative right-wing ultra-nationalists. These people have continued to resist such moves as political and epistemological interests are increasingly challenged by the above mentioned forces.

[1] The use of the verb ‘flaunt’ in this paper refers to a kind of celebratory aspect of affirmative action aimed at national belonging.


martial art; masculinity; disguise; discipline; decolonize; national narrative.

Full Text:




Alappat, Sreedhara Menon (1967). A Survey of Kerala History. Madras: Sahitya

Pravarthaka Sahakarana Sangham.

Appadurai, A. (1996). Modernity at large: Cultural dimensions of globalization. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Armas, Frederick A. de. (2006). Quixotic Frescoes: Cervantes and Italian Renaissance Art.

Toronto, Buffalo, London: University of Toronto Press.

Benjamín, Walter. (2009). The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.

New York: Classic Books of America.

A Brief History of Capoeira. Accessed 19.2.2017.

Butler, Judith. (1990). Gender Trouble: Feminism and Subversion of Identity. New York,

London: Routledge.

“Choorakkodi Kalari Sangam: Kalaripayattu, a Traditional Art Form from Kerala.” Accessed


García Canclini, Néstor (1989). Culturas híbridas: Estrategias para entrar y salir de la

modernidad. México: Grijalbo.

Fanon, Frantz. (2004). The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Press.

Foucault, Michel. (1991). Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York:


Freire, Paulo. (2005). The Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Tr. Myra Bergman Ramos.

New York and London: Continuum.

Gopalkrishnan, K.K. (2011). “King of Kalarippayattu.” The Hindu, 4th February. Accessed


Hall, Stuart. (1980). "Encoding/Decoding." In Paul Morris and Sue Thornton

(eds.), Media Studies: A Reader. 2nd edn. Washington Square, NK: University Press, 2000, 51-61.

Hedegard, Danielle. (2013). “Blackness and Experience in Omnivorous Cultural

Consumption: Evidence from the Tourism of Capoeira in Salvador, Brazil.” 41(Poetics): 1–26. In Accessed 30.08.2013.‎.Racializing and Embodying Omnivorous Consumption.

History of Capoeira. Accessed 30.08.2013.

McDonald, Ian. (2003). “Hindu Nationalism, Cultural Spaces, and Bodily Practices in

India” in American Behavioral Scientist, 46(11): 1563-1576. Accessed 30.08.2013.

Mignolo, Walter D. (2010). Desobediencia epistémica. Retórica de la modernidad,

lógica de la colonialidad y gramática de la descolonialidad. Buenos Aires:

Ediciones del Signo.

Mignolo, Walter D. (2013). “Geopolitics of Sensing and Knowing: On (De)Coloniality,

Border Thinking, and Epistemic Disobedience.” 1.1(Confero): 129–150. Accessed 2.1.2016.

Mitra, Royona. (2016). “Decolonizing Immersion: Translation, Spectatorship, Rasa theory

and Contemporary British dance.” Performance Research: A Journal of the Performing Arts. 21(5): 89-100. Accessed 19.2.17

Panikkar, K.N. (2009). “The violence in Gujarat and Orissa has generated disgust towards the

Sangh Parivar, but Hindu communalism is seeking to refurbish its image.” 26.7(Frontline):.


Schelling, Vivian. (2004). “Popular Culture in Latin America.” In The Cambridge Companion to Modern Latin American Culture. Ed. John King. New York,

Sao Paolo etc.: Cambridge UP.

Sarto, Ana del, Alicia Rios and Abril Trigos eds. (2004). Latin American Cultural

Studies Reader. Durham and London: Duke University Press.

Schwarz, Roberto. (2004). “Brazilian Culture: Nationalism by Elimination.” In Latin

American Cultural Studies Reader. Ed. Ana del Sarto et al. 233- 249.

Stephens, Neil and Sara Delamont. (2014). “‘I can see it in the nightclub’: dance, capoeira

and male bodies.” In 62(The Sociological Review): 149–166.

Talmon-Chvaicer, Maya. (2008). The Hidden History of Capoeira: A Collision of Cultures in

the Brazilian Battle Dance. Austin: University of Texas Pres.

Yancy, George. (2008). “Colonial Gazing: The Production of the Body as

'Other'." 32.1(Western Journal of Black Studies): 1-15.

Zarrilli, Phillip B. (1998). When the Body Becomes All Eyes: Paradigms, Discourses and

Practices of Power in Kalarippayattu, a South Indian Martial Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Urumi. (2011). DVD. Directed by Santosh Sivan. Malayalam. Kerala, India: August Cinema,

Cordão De Ouro. (1977). Online via YouTube. Directed by Antonio Carlos da Fontoura. Portuguese. Brazil,

Body Games-Capoeira and Ancestry. (2014). Online. Directed by Matthias

Röhrig Assunção’s. UK,

Angolan Roots of Capoeira. (2012).



Article Metrics

Metrics Loading ...

Metrics powered by PLOS ALM

Between Journal is published by the University of Cagliari - Maintenance for this OJS installation is provided by UniCA  Open Journals, hosted by Sistema Bibliotecario di Ateneo.

Between Journal is published with the funding of the Bank of Sardinia Foundation.

ISSN 2039-6597

CC-By lockssDOAJ seal SPARC Europe