In twenty-first century Brazil, Afro-Brazilians have embraced various cultural markers of their ethno-racial identity to improve their economic survival and well-being. Although these markers may take many forms across Brazil, this essay examines the growing enterprise of ethnic tourism in quilombos or communities of African descent. The work of John L. and Jean Comaroff, Ethnicity, Inc., is introduced as a point of departure to explore the two different manifestations of the ethnic commodity economy: the commodification of culture and the incorporation of identity. I argue that the ethno-commodity phenomenon is not a scalable or equitable model of development for Brazil’s quilombos. Case studies show that quilombolas or residents of these communities have adopted ethnic tourism primarily because of the loss of wage employment alternatives and environmental policies that threaten their livelihoods. The examples also illustrate that quilombolas continue to sell their labor, even as they are forced to insert themselves into the global economy by commodifying their culture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-202
Number of pages24
JournalAfrican and Black Diaspora
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 4 2017


  • Afro-Brazilians
  • Brazil
  • Ethnic tourism
  • black rural communities
  • ethno-racial identity
  • quilombos

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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