John’s dissertation, titled Sexual Order, Racial Progress: Queering Racial Democracy in Brazil, uses archival findings and close and queer readings of mainstream popular literature, cinema, music, and television to analyze the ways in which the national Brazilian myth and ideology of racial democracy constitutes a performance of race and sex. He draws on performance, queer, black feminist, and critical race theories in order to understand what he argues to be the racial and sexual anti-normativities upon which racial democracy itself is founded. Through such cultural productions, he suggests that we might better pinpoint the inner workings of Brazilian whiteness and how it, in all of its circumventions vis-à-vis a nationalist discourse of mixed race-ness, becomes more clearly marked. By incorporating a diversity of media throughout the twentieth century, his work shows how, over time, whiteness in Brazil alters its own aesthetic, gesture, and sound to maintain racial and cultural hierarchies. Brazilian whiteness thus defines itself through a well-rehearsed and recited desire, longing, or nostalgia for an authentic blackness of yore that it can at once incorporate into and yet confine to the historical national fabric.
John graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2010 with a B.A. in Spanish, Latin American Studies, and a minor in African and Afro-American Studies. He earned his M.A.Ed. in Spanish Education (K-12) from Wake Forest University in 2011, after which he moved to Salvador, Brazil where he was awarded his M.A. in Ethnic and African Studies from the Universidade Federal da Bahia. He has previously conducted ethnographic work in Brazil and Ecuador on performances of race, gender, and sexuality in media and daily life that anchor his interests in cultural productions of national race mixture in Latin America and the Caribbean.