Vanessa Castañeda Lecture

Title of Talk and Date:


Dr. Vanessa Castañeda, Dadvison College

Thursday, March 7th, 2024 at 1:10PM

Via Zoom: Link here!


In this presentation, Dr. Castañeda will provide a brief history of the baianas de acarajé street food vendors, who are icons of both national Brazilian identity and regional Afro-Bahian heritage. Her talk will focus on the ways food has been a liberatory tool, a vessel for religious preservation, as well as an important marker of identity.

Bio: Vanessa Castañeda is Assistant Professor of Afro-Latin American Studies at Davidson College. Her research centers on the baianas de acarajé, predominantly older, working-class Black women who are street vendors in Salvador, Brazil, that sell typical regional foods with culinary origins in West Africa. The baianas also have come to exist as central icons of the African heritage tourism and cultural figures of regional and national Brazilian identity. Using interdisciplinary methodologies, including archival research and twenty months of community-based ethnographic fieldwork with the National Association of Baianas (ABAM), her work reconceptualizes the baianas as political agents of Black feminism for self and collective liberation. She shows how the women have mastered navigating their mobility in accessing multiple spaces of power, both figuratively and spatially. Her research has been supported by the Brazilian Studies Association (BRASA) Initiative Scholarship, the Tinker Foundation, and the US Fulbright Program. Her writing has appeared in The Latin Americanist and Afro-Ásia.