A Review of
Afroempreendedorismo no turismo, desigualdade racial e fortalecimento da identidade negra / Afro-entrepreneurship in tourism, racial inequality and strengthening of Black identity
Afrotourism: impacts on reducing racial inequality and affirming Black identity in Brazil
A rising trend among Afro-entrepreneurs in Brazil, afrotourism challenges dominant Blackness narratives and contributes to reducing historical racial inequalities.
Afro-entrepreneurship is a growing field of practice and focus of research. Yet, researchers themselves vary on their perspectives of this term, and its related meaning to Black-owned companies or Black entrepreneurship. Dr. Natália Araújo de Oliveira, the author of the article, frames the discussion of these topics around the business engagement in Brazil with the Black community. In her research, Afro-entrepreneurship presupposes a focus on strengthening Black culture and identity through its functioning; Black entrepreneurship and Black business owners can be pivotal for representation in management positions. Yet, this does not necessarily mean these companies will apply different business models based on race.
Afrotourism can consist of popularizing Afro-centered narratives, as well as experiences, lodging, and services associated with Black culture. Revenue-generating activities of these businesses may include tours, pedagogical journeys, and accommodation in key historical places for Black people. Additionally, this approach may include changes to the recruitment process for staff and the distribution of profits to invest in Black communities. In this article, the author surveyed 15 Afro-entrepreneurs in various parts of Brazil and mapped several ways in which these initiatives contribute to reducing racial inequality, and in turn, affirm Black identity. The study is a pioneering effort to understand this phenomenon and new ways of doing business.
Natália Araújo de Oliveira earned her PhD degree in Sociology from Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul – UFRGS (Porto Alegre/RS, Brazil). Her research focuses on tourism and racial relations. She is an adjunct professor at Universidade Federal de Pelotas’ Center for Socio-Organizational Sciences and the vice-leader of the university’s research group on Gender, Race, and Intersectionalities in Tourism (GRITU). Her previous research focuses on other historically marginalized or excluded people in Brazil, including Xavantes, Black women, and Native populations.
Methods and Findings
In this article, Araújo de Oliveira employs a qualitative research method and grounds the study in assessing Brazil’s first afrotourism national conference in 2019, inspired by the “Black Money” concept popularized by Jamaican-born civil rights activist Marcus Garvey.
Garvey defended ideas to empower Black populations worldwide and generate wealth within Black communities. Besides starting several organizations targeting Black clients, his ideas inspired ideas such as Black-owned banks and the establishment of Black nationalist movements across the world.
In 2020, an independent group of Tourism-related companies officially completed Brazil’s first mapping of afrotourism initiatives. Observing initiatives that achieved national prominence in tourism magazines in 2020, Araújo de Oliveira compiled a list of known Afro-entrepreneurs and contacted them through social media. The researcher applied snowball sampling to find additional applicable entrepreneur participants. The article summarizes the answers of 15 respondents to an online survey, including an open-ended question: “How can Afro-entrepreneurship contribute to the reduction of racial inequality and for the affirmation of black identity in Brazil?” Survey respondents overwhelmingly identified as female, ranging in age from 18 to 59, and with the majority having obtained a university degree.
Findings indicated seven benefits of Afro-entrepreneurship cited by participants for the field of afrotourism:
- Reclaims Black historical narratives and memory. The practice of afrotourism operationalizes resistance to the “erasure of history through marginalization” in mainstream Euro-centric tourist activities, and rescues histories that are pivotal for understanding Brazilian equitable values and culture which may typically be hidden by mainstream white interpretations of the past.
- Generates and injects income and working capital for the Brazilian Afro-descendant population, through entrepreneurship by and for Black communities. This contributes to narrowing the racial wealth gap and inequality.
- Embeds antiracism in business models by building engagement with customers centered on Black empowerment. Afro-entrepreneurship redesigns business relationships with tourism customers and employees to serve a purpose beyond profit-making.
- Fosters a united platform of Black entrepreneurs who value Black ancestry, yielding internal investment in Black communities as an integral part of the country’s history and economy.
- Creates positive imagery for Black people that confront racist dominant narratives. An example is Black.Diaspora, an organization working with training and consulting using innovative methodologies to foster educational experiences and conscious tourism focused on strengthening Black culture’s recognition.
- Institutes healthy and positive image representation for younger generations through the new narratives of Black culture.
A rising trend among Afro-entrepreneurs in Brazil, afrotourism challenges dominant Blackness narratives and contributes to reducing historical racial inequalities. The strengthening of Black identity is crucial to rewriting social narratives of exclusion, exoticization, and marginalization of Black people throughout Brazilian history. Afrotourism is a key activity to uncover hidden stories and to boost the popularity of tourist attractions typically relegated to secondary importance. Moreover, creating an industry for Black entrepreneurs to be proud of their identity counters the societal narrative that distancing oneself from Blackness places individuals in higher tiers of social hierarchies. This effect changes the images of Black people within the tourism industry and serves as a pedagogical tool for younger generations as a whole. While Afro-entrepreneurship is a relatively new phenomenon in Brazil and the research available is limited, this article serves as critical initial exploration of this growing trend in one of Brazil’s most profitable industries.
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