From the perspective of South–South relations, the dramatic shift in Brazilian politics from Leftist to far-Right governments since 2003 has echoed in popular culture as a national identity crisis. At a time when nationalism and xenophobia are fueled by political rhetoric and a prolonged economic downturn, television melodrama Órfãos da terra (Orphans of the Earth, 2019) depicts the plight of Syrian refugees in Brazil, explaining the humanitarian dimension of the crisis and appealing to the public’s moral and religious sentiments. The telenovela also invokes Brazil’s history as an immigrant country and the idea of mistura (mixture) as its defining trait. In this way, the telenovela engages in a contest over Brazilian identity by promoting a progressive alternative to the resurgent far-Right ideology. But this alternative betrays a deep-seated Islamophobia that paradoxically brings it closer to its ideological antagonist. An Islamophobic rejection of xenophobia, Órfãos da terra trades the South–South solidarity of the Lula-Dilma era (2003–2016) for a nationalist myth of exceptionalism, in parallel with Bolsonaro’s strong U.S. orientation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)557-581
Number of pages25
JournalComparative Literature Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2021


  • Brazil
  • Islamophobia
  • Popular culture
  • Refugees
  • South–South

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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