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Key Issues and Texts: Race, racism, and anti-racism in Latin America

Seminar 1: Researching race and racisms: an introduction (Sarah Abel) 

This session provides an introduction to critical studies of race and racism in Latin America. We will examine the different ways in which race and racism have been defined globally, and consider the specificities of how race has been constructed in Latin American societies, revolving particularly around concepts of “blood purity” and “colour”. We will also discuss the role of scientists and elites in shaping public discourses around race, racism and antiracism, and the question of whether – and to what extent – researchers can aim to study these phenomena objectively.

Key issues

  • Definitions of race and racism
  • Researcher positionality
  • Objectivity/subjectivity in science

Required reading:

  • Twine, France Winddance. “Racial Ideologies and Racial Methodologies.” In Racing Research, Researching Race. Methodological Dilemmas in Critical Race Studies, edited by France Winddance Twine and Jonathan W. Warren, 1–34. New York and London: New York University Press, 2000.
  • UNESCO. Four Statements on the Race Question. Paris: UNESCO, 1969.
  • Wade, Peter. “Race in Latin America.” In A Companion to Latin American Anthropology, edited by Deborah Poole, 177–92. London: Blackwell, 2008.

Bibliography

 

Seminar 2: Seeing race from an intersectional perspective: articulations with gender, class and sexuality in Latin America (Aiko Ikemura Amaral)

This session takes an intersectional approach to exploring racialised social hierarchies and everyday experiences in Latin America. As a concept, intersectionality highlights how race can only be understood through and in relation to other dimensions of exclusion or ‘vectors of power’ such as gender, sexuality, class, origins, citizenship status etc. As an analytical lens, intersectionality allows us to observe how inequalities, practices, spaces and everyday lives are built on the multiple articulations between these dimensions. In Latin America, superposing forms of domination – colonialism, patriarchy, neoliberalism – have created variegated experiences of exclusion and privilege at the intersections, as well as new identities and potentials for struggle. In this session, we invite students to look at different case studies in order to discuss different articulations between race, sex, class and gender across the region.

Key issues

  • Intersectionality
  • Gender
  • Sex and sexualities
  • Race
  • Class

Required reading:

Students are asked to read these two texts and chose at least one from the addtional reading list in the bibliography (readings will be assigned to students in the previous seminar).

  • Collins, Patricia H and Bilge, Sirma (2020) Intersectionality [second edition]. Polity Press. Chapter One: What is intersectionality?, 1-36.
  • Viveros-Vigoya, Mara (2016) La interseccionalidad: una aproximación situada a la dominación, Debate Feminista, 52, 1-17.

Bibliography

 

Seminar 3: Whitening: from national projects to family affairs (Sarah Abel) 

The early twentieth century saw the rise of eugenic theories and policies in Latin American nations, whose elite classes viewed the management of reproduction as a way to “improve the race” of their societies. Whereas in Anglophone societies like Britain and the US eugenic theorists presented “miscegenation” as a cause of racial degeneration, many Latin American scientists and governments embraced ideologies of cultural and biological mixture as a way of homogenizing and “whitening” their populations. In this seminar we will examine the history of eugenic thought and policy in Latin American societies, and consider how these ideologies continue to resonate through the racialization of contemporary social attitudes towards marriage and reproduction.

Key issues

  • Eugenics and the politics of reproduction
  • Whiteness and white privilege
  • Affective dimensions of racism

Required reading:

  • Fernandez, Nadine T. ‘The Color of Love: Young Interracial Couples in Cuba’. Latin American Perspectives 88, no. 23 (1996): 99–117.
  • Pinho, Patricia de Santana. “White but Not Quite: Tones and Overtones of Whiteness in Brazil.” Small Axe 29 (2009): 39–56.
  • Stepan, Nancy Leys. The Hour of Eugenics: Race, Gender, and Nation in Latin America. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1991. Chapters 2 and 5.

Bibiliography

 

Seminar 4: Asian mestizos: transnational biopolitics, mestizaje and everyday practices of state formation​ (Jessica Fernández de Lara Harada)

This lecture draws on mestizaje as a referential point to constitute the national subject by positioning others as outsiders. We explore how positioning works in mestizo states, and how difference is enunciated in official discourses, everyday practices and as a strategy of resistance. Drawing on the overlooked experiences of Asians in Latin America, this session shows how the nation and citizenry are shaped by those deemed foreign outsiders and non-citizens, but also by internal others, that is, the indigenous peoples who fail to assimilate to the norm of mestizaje. We discuss the possibility of an affiliative identity based on the commonality of exclusion, and interrogate the potential to generate politics of solidarity or differential primordial claims.

Key issues:

  • Mestizaje, Internal and foreign others
  • Positioning, Racism and Resistance
  • Politics of solidarity

Required reading:

Bibliography

 

Seminar 5: Race and the city: place, segregation, multiculturalism, and the right to the city (Giulia Torino)

Cities have played a key role in the making of the racial-colonial project of modernity in Latin America. Yet, Latin American race studies have rarely been explored from a spatial and urban perspective. Drawing on empirical and theoretical resources, we will explore the connection between city-making and race-making in Latin America. In particular, this session will ask how contemporary issues related to residential segregation, multicultural urban policies, the making of place, and the Right to (belong in) the City are connected to the social construction of “race”. In this process, we will also seek to debunk some common tropes that associate black life in Latin American cities with necropolitical imaginaries, violence, poverty, marginality, and the topos of the non-urban.

Key issues

  • Residential Segregation
  • Urban Policy
  • Black Urbanism
  • Cosmopolitan Multiculturalism

Required reading:

  • Alves, Jaime Amparo. From Necropolis to Blackpolis: Necropolitical Governance and Black Spatial Praxis in São Paulo, Brazil. Antipode 46, no. 2 (2014): 323–39.
  • Wade, Peter. Blackness and Race Mixture: The Dynamics of Racial Identity in Colombia. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993. Chapter 12, Pp. 207-35.
  • Williams Castro, Fatimah. Afro-Colombians and the Cosmopolitan City: New Negotiations of Race and Space in Bogotá, Colombia. Latin American Perspectives 40, no. 2 (2013): 105–17.

    Bibliography

     

    Seminar 6: Contemporary politics of antiracism: taking the measure of racism (Sarah Abel)

    Since the 1980s, many Latin American democracies have progressively adopted multicultural policies and constitutions that recognize the distinct cultural contributions of Indigenous and Afro-descendant populations, and offer them certain legal resources and protections. In some cases, policies of reparation and affirmative action initiatives have been established to correct the historical damages and inequalities wrought by colonialism, slavery and racism. These policies break with the myths of racial democracy and post-race ideologies promoted by twentieth-century Latin American governments, and have led in some instances to public polemics and political backlash. Meanwhile, scientists and activists have sought to make contemporary racisms and racial inequalities visible and quantifiable, sometimes employing anthropometric technologies that have raised new concerns about the dangers of objectifying “race”. In this session we will explore these recent developments and discuss the goals, challenges and dilemmas of contemporary antiracist struggles.

    Key issues

    • Multicultural states and new definitions of race and ethnicity
    • Approaches to measuring racism and racial inequalities
    • Debates around affirmative action

    Required reading:

    • Fry, Peter. ‘A Viewpoint on the Dispute Among Anthropologists Over Racially Targeted Policies in Brazil’. Lusotopie 16, no. 2 (2009): 185–203.
    • Schwartzman, Luisa Farah, and Angela Randolpho Paiva. ‘Not Just Racial Quotas: Affirmative Action in Brazilian Higher Education 10 Years Later’. British Journal of Sociology of Education 37, no. 4 (2016): 548–66.
    • Telles, Edward E., and The Project on Ethnicity and Race in Latin America. Pigmentocracies: Ethnicity, Race, and Color in Latin America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014. Chapter 1.

    Bibliography