Engaged Research Grant Report – Cachoeiras –women writing Recôncavo da Bahia

Engaged Research Grants support research partnerships that forge ethical relationships and empower those who have historically been among those researched in anthropology. Designed in alliance with individuals who have born the impact of various kinds of marginalization, these partnerships bring together scholars and their interlocutors in the mutual production of anthropological knowledge aimed at combatting inequality and promoting the flourishing of human and more than human worlds. The program supports research that promises to make a significant contribution to anthropological conversations through collaborations in which engagement is a central feature of a project from the very start.

The Foundation is proud to share the final report of an Engaged Research Grant awarded in 2022 to Maira Vale (University of São Paulo (USP) and her partners entitled "Cachoeiras - Women Writing Recôncavo Baiano."

"Everyone has a story to tell," said Rose Miranda when talking about her writing process as part of the Cachoeiras Project: Women Writing Recôncavo da Bahia, which was the result of a partnership between Andarilha Edições and Imuê - Instituto Mulheres e Economia. The project financed the production of books by five authors (in addition to Rose Miranda, Lucineide Souza, Clara Amorim Duca, Deisiane Barbosa and Any Manuela Freitas). The methodology was inspired by poetic uprisings (Barbosa 2020), collective writing meetings between the women, combined with individual research, general meetings, dialogue and the circulation of texts. By articulating the reflections from the production of the books and what the editorial work brings out, the project enabled discussions on co-creating research and texts, from co-authorship to book publishing. Writing here appears as a commons (Dardot; Laval, 2017), a collective engagement (Morawska et al., 2022) with which we scribble other knowledge (Rodrigues, 2021) and tell other stories (Haraway 2016).


The project submitted to the Engaged Research Grant proposed a collective writing and publication of five books by women of the Recôncavo da Bahia, Brazil. The call format enabled the research to be carried out not only by me, the anthropologist, but also by the women with whom I built knowledge throughout the year, who became the authors of their books.

From the position of editor, more than co-author as a researcher, we constructed quite different narratives of the region’s official historiography, generally made by an economic point of view and from the perspective of a white elite heiress of sugar mills and plantation (VALE, 2018). The Recôncavo da Bahia thus was retold in stories about the culture and dance scene in Cachoeira (Foi um prazer estar em sua companhia [It was a pleasure to be in your company], Clara Amorim Duca, 2023); the tales of Ladeira do Milagre and Gruta de Santa Bárbara in São Félix (Memórias de uma Menina da Ladeira [Memoirs of a little girl from Ladeira], Lucineide Souza, 2023); how the Dona Dalva’s Samba de Roda was created and its relationship with the trajectory of black women from the Recôncavo in the struggle for the transmission and preservation of this intangible heritage (O samba do pé e da palma delas [The samba of their foot and palm], Any Manuela Freitas, 2023); the autobiography of an adobe house intertwined with the stories of an tropical almond tree and the family that planted-built them, in a Recôncavo marked by the production of cassava flour on casas de farinhas [adobe houses for cassava flour oven] (casamensoeira, Deisiane Barbosa, 2023); and the path of a woman with fome de conhecimento [thirsty for knowledge] who faced a marriage that did not allow her to spread her wings (Ninguém fica no silêncio [Nobody stays silent], Rose Miranda, 2023).

In this report, therefore, I present an initial proposal for reflection based on the engaged research carried out between March 2022 and April 2023. Based on the discussion of the geopolitics of bodies in academic knowledge production and the quilombola literature, writing here is a disputed territory. The idea of social technologies of common (JÚNIOR et al., 2021) also helps us to think about collective strategies for writing and occupying hegemonic places in academia by “others” bodies, such as black women from the Recôncavo da Bahia. I also describe the methodology of the Cachoeiras Project, the poetic uprisings (BARBOSA, 2020), and the collective writing process of the five books, reflecting on the editorial organization as a way of doing ethnography and producing knowledge. This discussion will be better developed and submitted as an article by me and Deisiane Barbosa for the journal Women and Performance, to be translated also with the Engaged Research resources.

Writing as a common

The great meaning for me in being part of this project is to leave a reference for the younger ones and a memory for the older ones taking the place of author / writer. I always thought I could never write a book. Being part of this group of authors tells me of the importance of disseminating the female and Bahian literary voice that is not valued by our society where the writing of white men prevails as the only and central reference. From this project I will be able to publish my first book, resisting in the body of a black woman in such an unequal, patriarchal and racist country, encouraging my equals and proving that we can indeed be writers, talking about us and our territory where we often live marginalized with the truths between the lines that do not count when they talk about us and we are not protagonists. (Lucineide Souza, 2021)

To submit the Cachoeiras Project to the Wenner-Gren Foundation’s Call it was necessary to present as documentation the letters of the people who would participate in the research. At that initial moment, these first lines from the authors already announced one of the main points that we would discuss in our meetings, the fact that they had difficulty in seeing themselves as authors.

In March 2022 we met for the first time as a group of authors. If at first they were shy, as soon as the word circulated, stories of their lives and possibilities of writing these experiences flowed, despite the uncomfortable use of a tool, the writing, which was always presented to them as something alien to their busy daily

routine. Between taking care of children, home, parents, work and studies, these women took the writing process as a new routine. Deisiane Barbosa and Lucineide Souza were an exception, the first was starting to write her fourth literary book and the second had already participated in creative writing workshops and published a short story in a collection resulting from these projects, but her day-to-day life did not allow her to dedicate herself to writing as she would like. Clara Amorim Duca, despite being a teacher and writing daily, had never imagined herself writing and publishing a book. Any Manuela Freitas has been working with cultural projects for some years now but found it difficult to move from a technical writing to a more literary one. Rose Miranda, on the other hand, spends at least two hours telling us a story in the smallest details, such as “he gave me 20 reais in two 10 bills” when talking about the moment she divorced from her husband and went after the children’s pension, but when it came to writing, she thought that she had to put written words like “meanwhile”, “in the face of what happened” etc. and cut her narrative so full of life.

As the books were part of a research process, my work as an editor of their writings over 10 months required the development of a writing methodology for each of these characteristics and routines. This process was also an experimentation in the way in which we can do ethnography by rethinking the production of reports and field data in a collective and not individualized way. Each author thus carried out their research, seeking and analyzing old photos, writing memoirs of their lives, interviewing relatives and close people, and collecting testimonials from members of the cultural and dance groups that composed their books. From this material transcribed and written by them, we read it collectively and reorganized the text into chapters. We built the path of each book in weekly meetings and by revising what they were producing, first the reports, after the text already worked on.

The movement to shift the reflection from co-authorship, thus, to that of editorial work as ethnographic departed from the recognition of the geopolitics of bodies in the production of academic (or literary) knowledge, as conceptualized by Ângela Figueiredo (2017), and from the positionality and experiences of those who are on the frontiers to build a “mestizo theory”, as Glória Anzáldua ([1981] 2000) does. This shift, however, also made us understand writing itself as a common

(Dardot; Laval, 2017; JÚNIOR et al., 2021), that is, storytelling as a community social technology that starts from the collective to occupy hegemonic places. But also a writing with the body and in the “pretuguês” [Black Portuguese] of so many people, theorized by Lélia Gonzalez (1983), and marked by a racial division of space that naturalizes the place of black people in favelas and flooded areas and the place of white people in city centers, on high and safe buildings (GONZALEZ, 1983), places where it is possible and desired to become a writer and academic knowledge producer.

With the collective production of these five books, therefore, it was possible to enhance agency in writing through a joint reflective experience, which makes the geopolitics of bodies visible and destabilizes naturalized places. Writing thus appears as a territory in dispute in which it is necessary to name oneself, so that “the racist does not give us a name”, as one of the authors of the project, Lucineide Souza, always states. Recôncavo da Bahia is a mostly black territory, where the knowledge related to afro-religions has resisted spiritually and epistemologically over the years (VALE, 2018). In this relationship between different ways of worshiping, we can see between the lines of an event that moves the city of São Félix, involving city hall, church, pilgrims and povo de santo. We also see the frictions that cross these power relations, arising from a colonial encounter:

so it all starts because there is a road. path of dust, pure land, shortcut through what maybe one day was all dense forest. then it was private property, pasture, the highway that crosses brazil from end to end along the coastline. an owner had, but they turned a blind eye, or rather better it would be. they made war and much blood. (BARBOSA, 2023, p. 21)

The reoccupation of an invaded territory, which gives rise to a quilombola becoming (BISPO, 2015), can also be a reforest, as Deisiane Barbosa (2023) writes in casamendoeira, regarding the construction of an adobe house on the rural area of Conceição da Feira. For Antonio Bispo (2015), the interlocution of oral languages with the written language of the colonizers is a practice of counter-colonization. Maria Aparecida Rodrigues (Dona Aparecida), a quilombola leadership, associates the struggle for the title of the land in Quilombo Grotão, Tocantins, Brazil, to the knowledge produced there: “But, it’s like saying: ‘we’re there’. We are resisting! Because we are the ones who are going to remark the territory. We’re not going to wait for the government to check in […]. First we have to riscar [scribble] and go where the risk of our knowledge passes. That’s the fight” (RODRIGUES, 2021, p. 25). And it is with the counter-colonizing practice that mixes oral languages with written language that we can riscar knowledge (RODRIGUES, 2021) of these authors and occupy academic spaces, even if their busy lives do not give them much time, “It’s like Conceição Evaristo says, right? Our life is always a story, each one writes the way they want” (MIRANDA, 2023, p. 57).

With Dona Aparecida, we also choose to “tell other stories” (HARAWAY, 2016) in search of indigenous, quilombolas, peasants, country people, more than human, science-fiction and others speculations that reveal ways of living that are simultaneously constituent and contradictory to the capitalist project, and that activate feminist imaginations of life, “near futures, possible futures and implausible but real presents” (HARAWAY, 2016, p. 136). It is also to produce ethnographic experiments by each engagement with the people with whom we build research and struggle (MORAWSKA, 2022). Writing, therefore, is a political act, as Any Manuela Freitas points out when she brings the daily life of two of hers great-great- grandmothers, her grandmother’s formation of Samba de Roda de Dona Dalva, her mother’s and her own:

Organizing a Samba de Roda group is a political act, so is writing about this practice transmitting methodologies. This book, a writing by many generations, also proposes a reflection on the obstacles present in the maintenance of cultural heritage and the challenges faced by Samba de Roda groups. Although we walk with a legacy coming from long steps, we are still far from solid recognition for our survival and preservation of cultural wisdom. (FREITAS, 2023, p. 14)

By following this proposal to activate the counter-colonial quilombola imagination from a black territory, the idea of these collective writings was to incite the appropriation of the hegemonic language of the written word by women from the Reconcavo of Bahia. It was also to produce narratives guided by a perspective that is generally silenced when it comes to the official history of the region. This writing also brought different written formats. Clara Amorim Duca (2023), for example, intertwined her own memories with the voice of the young people who were part of her dance company, CIA DUANA’S DE RITMO, formed in the early 2000s. Their narratives show the importance of this group for their growth and professional training. Duca (2023) also talks about the lack of funding for social projects in Cachoeira and how the group became a family, “composed of many people who had dreams” (DUCA, 2023, p. 129):

Culture and art do need support, investment, and encouragement, but as a structured government program, not as a favor from anyone. What impressed us was how it was possible to not value a group of young people dedicated to an artistic project that was already a success and recognized by the community. I didn’t want to commit my group to any kind of political exchange, whether from political parties or otherwise, and therefore we invested in our self-production and self-promotion. It was us and our art! (DUCA, 2023, p. 92-93)

The idea of keeping memory through the narratives of women storytellers guided the collective writing process in the Cachoeiras Project, when thinking of written books as inhabited, extended, expanded by the daily life of the Recôncavo da Bahia. This is how the books became the “Cachoeiras Collection”, launched in April 2023, by andarilha edições and financed by The Wenner-Gren Foundation:

Image 1 – Front and back cover of the book The samba of their foot and palm, Any Manuela Freitas. Source: Cachoeiras Collection, andarilha edições (2023)
Image 2 – Front and back cover of the book casamendoeira, Deisiane Barbosa. Source: Cachoeiras Collection, andarilha edições (2023)
Image 3 – Front and back cover of the book It was a pleasure to be in your company, Clara Amorim Duca. Source: Cachoeiras Collection, andarilha edições (2023)
Image 4 – Front and back cover of the book Memoirs of a little girl from Ladeira, Lucineide Souza. Source: Cachoeiras Collection, andarilha edições (2023)
Image 5 – Front and back cover of the book Nobody stays silent, Rose Miranda. Source: Cachoeiras Collection, andarilha edições (2023)

Poetic uprisings and collective writings

During the writing process, we realized that it was also necessary to develop a writing methodology with each of the project’s authors. Along 10 months, we did weekly online and face-to-face meetings inspired by the poetic uprisings performed in 2019 by Deisiane Barbosa (2020) with the Marias da Ladeira group, coordinated by Lucineide Souza and composed of other women from the Ladeira do Milagre community, in São Félix. Poetic uprisings are meetings for share collective stories through the invention of memories and the sharing of dreams, within the artistic field, seeking different ways of telling collective narratives.

In March 2022, Deisiane Barbosa and I produced the Cachoeiras Project opening Poetic uprising. Around a large table, we spread pens and cardboard to conduct a conversation with literary books written by black authors, such as Conceição Evaristo and Aidil Araújo Lima, and exchanges about the project’s books intentions. There were two days of meetings and we left there with scripts for each of the books and descriptions of scenes and characters.

Image 6 – Poetic uprising, March 7, 2022. Source: Personal archive, 2022.
Picture 7 –Poetic uprising, March 7, 2022. Source: Personal archive, 2022.
Picture 8 –Poetic uprising, March 11, 2022. Source: Personal archive, 2022.
Picture 9 –Poetic uprising, March 11, 2022. Source: Personal archive, 2022.
Picture 10 –Poetic uprising, March 11, 2022. Source: Personal archive, 2022.

Over the following months, we held weekly meetings, alternating between collective conversations with the entire group or individual coordination meetings with each of the authors. All the books, therefore, were made in a process of dialogue and circulation of texts. The authors began to call themselves sisters in writing and to share experiences with each other. Lucineide, for example, even wrote the foreword to Rose’s book when she was having difficulties following her own. Thus, my work consisted of reading and re-reading these texts in the simultaneous conversations we had through the GoogleMeet Platform, experimenting with different writing and transcription techniques that could handle the authors’ troubled daily lives.

The dynamics of face-to-face meetings and writing of texts were always complicated, as they were crossed by employment ties, care for families, home and children. Clara Amorim Duca works three times a week in the quilombola community of São Francisco do Iguape and on other days she advises an urban kindergarten of Cachoeira, in addition to taking care of her teenage son. Any Manuela Freitas runs the cultural projects of Dona Dalva’s Samba de Roda and takes care of her bedridden father. Lucineide Souza works at the City Hall of São Félix-BA and has a 2-year-old son, in addition to taking care of her mother. And Rose Miranda takes care of her elderly mother and also her nephews, while studying Social Sciences at the Federal University of Recôncavo da Bahia (UFRB), in Cachoeira. With her, for example, we recorded and transcribed some conversations so that it would be possible to finish her book.

Two other face-to-face meetings were held in June and October. I was present at the latter, to close the project. The final writing of the books lasted until January, but I spent the entire month of October in Cachoeira so that we could finish the first version of each manuscript. This month, I had several individual meetings with the authors to read aloud and point out what still needed to be done. With Duca, we worked together on the transcription of the testimonies of CIA DUANA’S members and organizing the order in which they would appear in her book. We also recorded some excerpts, which I transcribed and added to the text file.

Image 11 – Collective writing meeting, June 11, 2022. Source: Personal archive, 2022.
Picture 12 – Collective writing meeting, September 1, 2022. Source: Personal archive, 2022.

In October, therefore, we held the closing Poetic uprising, at which short videos were recorded of the authors telling about their creative process, already thinking about publicizing the launch that would take place in 2023. Listening to them talking about the process, made us realize the importance of the project. Every time Rose Miranda, for example, talks about her book, first takes a deep breath and stays silent. From time to time the eyes water. She starts the video by saying: “everyone has a story to tell”. When talking about her process, she talks about the project itself.

Image 13 – Rose Miranda, Closing Poetic uprising, October 24, 2022.Source: Personal archive, 2022.

The collective making of these books, among sisters, thus, teaches us about the possibilities of organizing texts, excerpts, arguments that a publishing process brings out. Like what we do with lines and scenes from our field work and diaries, working with the authors’ texts is also cutting out and building a narrative that tells about issues that are important to anthropological theory, such as the cultural scene in Cachoeira, Brazil; the relationship between street dance and traditional dances of the region; the cultural heritage conservation process of samba de roda; violent relationships and heteronormative marriages; the spirituality and power relations that mixes Candomblé and Catholicism; the retaking of ancestral territories; agroecology and the construction of adobe houses; labor relations in the region and the inequalities that mark different bodies (Lucineide tells that she was born with a tobacco mark on her belly, a sign of every child born to women who worked in cigar factories in the region throughout their pregnancies).

Image 14 – Closing Poetic uprising, October 24, 2022. Source: Personal archive, 2022.
Image 15 – Closing Poetic uprising, October 24, 2022. Source: Personal archive, 2022.
Image 16 – Closing Poetic uprising, October 24, 2022. Source: Personal archive, 2022.
Image 17 – Closing Poetic uprising, October 24, 2022. Source: Personal archive, 2022.
Image 18 – Closing Poetic uprising, October 24, 2022. Source: Personal archive, 2022.


To participate in the Cachoeiras Collection was enriching, as the project allows dealing with literature, orality, poetry and other ways of recording the stories of black women in the Recôncavo da Bahia. The experience of telling the stories related to 5 life experiences with Samba de Roda, each experience of this in a different social context and time, is important for me and for the movement to which I am a part, which is Samba de Roda. In my family, it is the first time that moments of women who are already in the spiritual world have been recorded. In this process, it is important how we can identify traces of these women from the past in the behavior of women who are living in the present and how the relationships that permeate Samba de Roda between generations take place.

Any Manuela Freitas

I believe that we achieved individual dreams and that they add up, at the same time, to a collective one. Making the Cachoeiras Collection happen, each of its stages and the complexity it mobilizes, fulfills the urgent and indispensable goal of assuming ourselves the right to resume, recover, re-elaborate and also invent our own memories; thus, to trace our existences, preserving knowledge and cultures.

I feel fulfilled for investing energy that made such results possible and, above all, for having been involved in the same energy of creation and sharing that also impelled me to create my fourth book, “casamendoeira”. Writing is not an easy task and in many stages implies loneliness, however, writing from a process in which experiences, difficulties, discoveries are socialized, put us in front of more viable and affective procedures, which are therefore so powerful to materialize such narratives. In general, I feel gratitude and immense satisfaction with the results and developments of this project – launches, conversations, the distribution and circulation of books.

Deisiane Barbosa

I am Ana Clara de Sena Amorim, known as Duca, and I even adopted this nickname as a stage name, so it is common to call myself Duca Clara or Clara Duca. I had the pleasure
and happiness of participating in the CACHOEIRAS Project, which brought together five women from the Recôncavo da Bahia to write about their experiences in the region. I chose to write about a project that I developed in the late 90s and early 2000s called CIA DUANA´S DE RITMO, a cultural group that, as the name implies, involved various rhythms and dance styles. We worked with Latin dance, street dance, popular dance, among others and it lasted approximately 10 years.

Although there are five different recordings, each with its own narrative style, with its individual marks, the result is a collection that intertwines and intersects, which makes it difficult to imagine one without the other. Therefore, it is a collection that truly complements and completes itself.

Clara Amorim Duca

The workshops and collective learning meetings were always very useful, it was where I was able to learn each step of how to create my stories, each individual mentorship was a world of magical possibilities to reach our goal. These have always been moments of exchanges and good listening. Everything at once, always with a lot of dedication and care from those who were there to help me with the necessary techniques, I learned to describe characters, scenes and fit all of this into thought-provoking stories, full of black and feminine personality. I leave here my gratitude and admiration for the excellent coordination and guidance of Deisiane Barbosa and Maíra Vale. All the professional support, also affectionate and welcoming, was a watershed in the construction of this book in record time, which made all the difference for this collection to be built in such a densely wonderful way.

Being able to actively participate in each stage, from the cover design to book color and launch production with an all-female team was revolutionary. I still dream about everything I experienced, it was a collective and powerful construction.

Lucineide Souza

The writing process was a surprise, because it wasn’t yet mature, but deep down there was that desire to write and I didn’t have a path. The book has become a reference point in my life to awaken other people, because everyone has a story to tell, which can be shared in a simple and frank way. Learn that you are also capable of writing, because each one of us can give a little bit in the right measure and dose, by knowing what we really want. And I’m here, looking for it.

Rose Miranda

ANNEX 1 – Photos of the Cachoeiras Collection Lunch

Image 1 – Research coordination, authors and public. Photo by Iraí Barbosa, April 2023.
Image 2 – Research coordination and authors. Photo by Victoria Nasck, April 2023.
Image 3 – Research coordination and authors. Photo by Victoria Nasck, April 2023.
Image 4 – Amendoeira [almond tree] and event location. Photo by Victoria Nasck, April 2023.
Image 5 – Public at the launch of the Cachoeiras Collection. Photo by Victoria Nasck, April 2023.
Image 6 – Public at the launch of the Cachoeiras Collection. Photo by Victoria Nasck, April 2023.
Image 7 – Research coordination presenting the Cachoeiras Project. Photo by Victoria Nasck, April 2023.
Image 8 – Book reading of casamendoeira and live broadcast equipment/team.Photo by Victoria Nasck, April 2023.
Image 8 – Book reading of casamendoeira and live broadcast equipment/team. Photo by Victoria Nasck, April 2023.
Image 9 – Presentation of the book Memoirs of a little girl from Ladeira by Deisiane Barbosa. Photo by Victoria Nasck, April 2023.
Image 10 – Presentation of the book Memoirs of a girl from the Ladeira, by the author Lucineide Souza. Photo by Victoria Nasck, April 2023.
Image 11 –Iansã song, by Mestra Ana Olga during the presentation of the book Memoirs of a girl from the Ladeira, Lucineide Souza. Photo by Victoria Nasck, April 2023.
Image 12 – Presentation of the book Nobody stays silent, by the author Rose Miranda. Photo by Victoria Nasck, April 2023.
Image 13 – Presentation of the book The samba of their foot and palm, by the author Any Manuela Freitas. Photo by Victoria Nasck, April 2023.
Image 14 – Samba de Roda de Dona Dalva during the presentation of the book The samba of their foot and palm, Any Manuela Freitas. Photo by Victoria Nasck, April 2023.
Image 16 – Samba de Roda de Dona Dalva during the presentation of the book The samba of their foot and palm, Any Manuela Freitas.Photo by Victoria Nasck, April 2023.
Image 17 – Presentation of the book It was a pleasure to be in your company, by the author Clara Amorim Duca. Photo by Gabriela Acerbi, April 2023.
Picture 18 – Baianas and musicians of the Samba de Roda de Dona Dalva after the presentation. Photo by Victoria Nasck, April 2023.

Letter written for the project “Cachoeiras –women writing Recôncavo da Bahia”, Engaged Research Call, Wenner-Gren Foundation, 2022.


This independent publishing company is held by Deisiane Barbosa, project’s author and co- coordinator. The publishing house is situated in the rural area of the Recôncavo Baiano, Brazil, and the equipment acquired by the Wenner-Gren’s resources was donated to them. More information available at: https://andarilhaedicoes.com.br/. Accessed on: 24 Apr. 2023.

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