Vernacular sustainabilities—multispecies stories and life-death entanglements of the sertão nordestino in contemporary Brazilian futurisms (the film Bacurau and the sertãopunk comic Cangaço Overdrive)
In northeastern Brazil, a region with extreme droughts and the smallest rainfall index in the whole country, water sources are crucial to ensure the survival of humans and nonhumans in this semi-arid region, known as sertão nordestino. Since the mid-twentieth century, classical cultural expressions focusing on this area have emphasized poverty in a desert of dry vegetation. Unlike romanticized portrayals of the backland in the 1990s, contemporary visual culture resorts to speculative and science fictional elements to reflect on possible futures amidst pressing socio-environmental challenges in the Capitalocene.
This article examines how speculative and science-fictional elements in the film Bacurau (2019) by Juliano Dornelles and Kleber Mendonça Filho and the sertãopunk comic Cangaço Overdrive (2018) by Zé Wellington and Walter Geovani configure human–nonhuman and life–death entanglements to rearticulate both the representation of these communities as backward or picturesque and their historical de-futuring due to neo-colonialism and extractivism. These Brazilian visual productions problematize the notion of sustainability as a linear progression of human-centric futurity. In a dialogue between feminist posthumanist (Donna Haraway) and decolonial (T. J. Demos) works and the visual productions, I offer the notion of ‘vernacular sustainabilities’ that decenters the human while fashioning new conceptualizations of entangled and diverging futures in the sertão.
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