Doing Business in the Black: Afro-Brazilian Entrepreneurship as Resistance to Anti-Blackness in São Paulo, Brazil
Murphy, Demetrius Miles
Using various forms of ethnographic methods including interviews, site visits, and participant observation, I examine how Afro-Brazilian entrepreneurs resist anti-blackness through their products, labor, and a process I call aquilombamento (the act of creating or meeting in a maroon community). Building on the work of Wingfield and Taylor (2016), Mitchell-Walthour (2018), and Vargas (2018), my thesis (1) offers fresh insight into global black entrepreneurial practices and black urbanity; (2) elucidates the role of business in black placemaking; (3) contributes to a divergent theory in ethnic entrepreneurship which sees racial discrimination as cause for entry into business; and, (4) reframes the black entrepreneur from a deficient archetype to a model of resistance. I conducted 26 semi-structured interviews, analyzed 28 companies and engaged with the business community. I organize the thesis into three chapters: products, labor, and aquilombamento. I find centering blackness, ‘do negro para o negro,’ black women first, and urban aquilombamento are important strategies in undermining racism and creating competitive advantages for Black entrepreneurs. Despite knowing that selling black products, hiring black labor and curating black quilombos in an anti-black society carry significant risk, the Afro-Brazilian entrepreneurs directly challenge anti-blackness.