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

  • Indrani Mukherjee Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India.
  • Sanghita Sen University of St. Andrews, Scotland.
Keywords: martial art, masculinity, disguise, discipline, decolonize, national narrative.


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.


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Author Biographies

Indrani Mukherjee, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India.

Indrani Mukherjee is Professor at the Centre of Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Latin American Studies, JNU. She is a second generation Hispanist from India who wrote the first ever PhD on Latin American Literature from any Spanish Department in India. Her publications include Comparative Literature, Cultural Studies and Pedagogy of Literature. Apart from teaching post-graduate and research courses, she is also working on two research projects on Comparative Gender Studies from India and Latin America. She is in the Advisory Board of Postcolonial Interventions: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Postcolonial Studies. She is a life member of the European Network for Comparative Literary Studies as well as the Forum on Contemporary Theory, Baroda (India) which is in academic collaboration with the International Lincoln Center at the Louisiana State University, Shreveport, USA and University of North Texas at Denton, USA. Her last published book was Transcultural Negotiations of Gender: Studies in (Be)longing. Springer, 2016.



Sanghita Sen, University of St. Andrews, Scotland.

Sanghita Sen is an Associate Professor of English from India who has taught in many prestigious colleges under the West Bengal Education Service, such as the Presidency College and the Institute of English among some others. She was the Head of the Department of Humanities, Kalyani Government Engineering College, Kalyani, West Bengal.  At present she is undertaking a research project in Saint Andrews University in Scotland in Film Studies where she is looking at classic Bengali cinema through the Third Cinema discourse. Her areas of interest include Popular Culture Studies, Film Studies and  Comparative Literature as reflected through her extensive publications of several books and research articles. She is also a trained expert of ELT and has several books and articles published form renowned publishing houses.



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How to Cite
Mukherjee, I., & Sen, S. (2017). The Kalaripayattu and the Capoeira as Masculine Performances: From Bodies of Resistance to Neoliberal Tourism Bodies. Between, 7(13).