Who Wants Money?: Politics, Performance, and the Conservative Turn in Brazil

Who wants money?

A lecture by Marcos Steuernagel

Moderated by Marcial Godoy-Anativia, Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics

In August 2017, the recently-elected mayor of São Paulo, João Doria—a “non-politician” millionaire and former presenter of the Brazilian version of The Apprentice—organized an arbitration between billionaire TV Presenter Silvio Santos and legendary theatre director Zé Celso, aiming to settle a 37-year-long-dispute over Santos’s proposal to build luxury high-rises in the property that surrounds Celso’s historic Teatro Oficina. This presentation unpacks the ways in which this meeting exposes an epistemological clash and amplifies tensions inherent in Brazil’s own version of the global conservative turn. In the context of the recent impeachment process that abruptly interrupted 14 years of Worker’s Party government, a New Right has risen that closely aligns neoliberal economics with social conservatism, specifically targeting advances made in the fields of gender politics, human rights, and culture as “left-wing ideologies” that must be eliminated “at all cost.” In this environment, theatre and performance serve as particularly charged sites of contention for these disputes in society at large, both in Brazil and beyond.

Marcos Steuernagel is Assistant Professor of Theatre at the University of Colorado Boulder, working on the intersection of performance and politics, Brazilian and Latin American theatre and performance, and the digital humanities. He is co-editor with Diana Taylor of the trilingual digital book What is Performance Studies? (2015), and a member of the editorial board of HemiPress, winner of the 2017 ATHE/ASTR Award for Excellence in Digital Scholarship. His upcoming monograph traces the relationship between politics and aesthetics in contemporary Brazilian theatre and dance.

Co-sponsored by the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics