Essential Outlines of Crime and Madness: Man-Fights in São Luís

Essay Excerpt

This article discusses a Brazilian scenario known as briga. The prototypical briga is a fatal baror streetfight, an escalating confrontation between two men culminating in murder. I shall argue that like Geertz's Balinese cockfight (1973a), briga exposes the hostility concealed beneath the smooth veneer of everyday sociability. But in briga disruptive sentiments burst through the veneer, dramatizing the troubling message that face-to-face encounters are unstable, emotional control is unreliable, and life itself is precarious. In short, briga proclaims that integrity at every level-social, moral, and physical-is at risk from forces barely submerged beneath the mundane surface of day-to-day existence. The spectacle of briga, at once riveting and repugnant, focuses Brazilians' attention repeatedly on a locus of sociocultural failure: a place where chaos issues from a crack in the world they inhabit. (Linger, 62)

About the Author

Daniel Linger is a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Southern California at Santa Cruz. He is affiliated with the Latin American and Latino Studies. 

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