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This session examines the origins and development of racial categories in Latin America, focusing on the centrality of concepts of racial mixture (mestizaje/mestiçagem) to various national identity discourses. At different times and in different places, racial mixture been presented as biological and/or cultural fact, founding myth, eugenic ideology, and anti-racist programme. Can it be all of these things at once? Is there an objective way of conceptualising racial mixture? This session will approach these questions by drawing on historical and anthropological sources, as well as critical race theory.

Key issues

  • Critical perspectives on race and mixture
  • Colonial hierarchies and categories
  • National ideologies and biopolitics

Key texts

  • Freyre, Gilberto. 1946. The Masters and the Slaves. New York: Alfred A. Knopff. Preface to the English edition (pp. xi–xvii).
  • Katzew, Ilona. 2005. Casta Painting: Images of Race in Eighteenth-Century Mexico. New Haven & London: Yale University Press. Chapter 2.
  • Kent, Michael, Vivette García-Deister, Carlos López-Beltrán, Ricardo Ventura Santos, Ernesto Schwartz-Marín, and Peter Wade. 2015. “Building the Genomic Nation: ‘Homo Brasilis’ and the ‘Genoma Mexicano’ in Comparative Cultural Perspective”. Social Studies of Science, 45, no. 6: 839–61.
  • Saade Granados, Marta. 2011. “México mestizo: De la incomodidad a la incertidumbre. Ciencia y política pública posrevolucionarias.” In Genes(&)Mestizos, edited by Carlos López Beltrán. México DF: Ficticia, 29–64.
  • Stolcke, Verena. 2008. “Los mestizos no nacen, se hacen”. In Identidades ambivalentes en América Latina (Siglos XVI-XXI), edited by Verena Stolcke and Alexandre Coello, 19–58. Barcelona: Bellaterra.