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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 racisms in Latin America. We will examine the different ways in which concepts of race and racism have been defined globally, and consider the specificities of how racial categories have 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:

  • De la Cadena, Marisol. ‘Introducción’. In Formaciones de indianidad. Articulaciones raciales, mestizaje y nación en América Latina, 7–34. Colombia: Envión, 2007.
  • 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. (Moodle)
  • Wade, Peter. “Race in Latin America.” In A Companion to Latin American Anthropology, edited by Deborah Poole, 177–92. London: Blackwell, 2008. (Moodle)
  • Warren, Jonathan W. ‘Masters in the Field: White Talk, White Privilege, White Biases’. In Racing Research, Researching Race: Methodological Dilemmas in Critical Race Studies, edited by France Winddance Twine and Jonathan W. Warren, 135–64. New York and London: New York University Press, 2000. (Moodle)

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 explore racialised social hierarchies and everyday experiences in Latin America. As a concept, intersectionality highlights how race works 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 continent.

Key issues

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

Required reading:

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

Additional Readings: (see Moodle)

  • Acciari, Louisa (2021) Practicing Intersectionality: Brazilian Domestic Workers’ Strategies of Building Alliances and Mobilizing Identity. Latin American Research Review, 56 (1), 67–81
  • Anderson, Mark (2009) This is Black Power we wear: Black America and the Fashioning of young Garifuna men, in Mark Anderson, Black and indigenous: Garifuna activism and consumer culture in Honduras. University of Minnesota Press, 172-200. (Moodle)
  • Babb, Florence E. (2012) Theorizing gender, race and cultural tourism in Latin America: a view from Peru and Mexico, Latin American Perspectives, 39 (6), 36-50. (Moodle)
  • Canessa, Andrew (2008) Sex and the citizen: Barbies and Beauty Queens in the age of Evo Morales, Travesia: Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies, 17 (1), 41-64. (Moodle)
  • Cannon, Barry (2008) Class/race polarisation in Venezuela and the electoral success of Hugo Chávez: a break with the past or the song remains the same?, Third World Quarterly, 29 (4) 731-748. (Moodle)
  • di Pietro, Pedro José Javier (2016) Decolonizing travesti space in Buenos Aires: race, sexuality, and sideways relationality, Gender, Place and Culture, 23 (5), 667-693. (Moodle)
  • González, Lélia (2018) Primavera para as rosas negras: Lélia Gonzales em primeira pessoa. Diáspora Africana. Chapters 02 and 35: A mulher negra na sociedade brasileira & Por um feminismo afrolatinoamericano, 34-53 & 307-319.
  • Maclean, Kate (2018) Envisioning gender, indigeneity and urban change: the case of La Paz, Bolivia, Gender, Place & Culture, 25 (5), 711-726. (Moodle)
  • Mollet, Sharlene (2021) Hemispheric, Relational, and Intersectional Political Ecologies of Race: Centring Land-Body Entanglements in the Americas, Antipode 53 (3), 810-830.
  • Mora, Claudia and Undurraga, Eduardo A. (2013) Racialisation of immigrants at work: labour mobility and segmentation of Peruvian migrants in Chile, Bulletin of Latin American Research, 32 (3), 294-310. (Moodle)
  • Perry, Keisha-Kahn Y. (2016) Geographies of Power: Black Women Mobilizing Intersectionality in Brazil, Meridians 14 (1): 94-120.
  • Radcliffe, Sarah A. (1990) Ethnicity, patriarchy, and incorporation into the nation: female migrants as domestic servants in Peru, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 8, 379-383. (Moodle)
  • Stølen, Kristi Anne (1996) The power of gender discourses in a multi-ethnic community in rural Argentina, in Marit Melhuus and Kristi Anne Stølen, Machos, Mistresses, Madonnas: Contesting the Power of Latin American Gender Imagery. London: Verso, 159-183. (Moodle)
  • Viveros-Vigoya, Mara (2013) Género, Raza y Nacion. Los Réditos Políticos de la  Masculinidad Blanca en Colombia. Maguaré 27 (1): 71-104.
  • Wade, Peter (2013) Articulations of eroticism and race: domestic service in Latin America, Feminist Theory, 14 (2), 187-202. (Moodle)
  • Weismantel, Mary (2001) Cholas and Pishtacos: Stories of Race and Sex in the Andes. University of Chicago Press. Chapter 4: Deadly Intercourse. (Moodle)

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:

Bibiliography

 

Seminar 4: Asian presence, anti-Asian racism and resistances in Latin America (Jessica Fernández de Lara Harada)

Moving beyond binaries of race relations still prevalent in studies of multi-ethnic mestizo states, this module draws on Asian Latin American studies, to ask how we can account for the experiences of racism, resistances and political subjectivities of people of Asian ancestry who are excluded from belonging to the nation in Latin America? We engage with the historical positioning of Asians in the racial order of the Americas as non-citizen labour, model minority/modernity model, and threatening economic competition. This positioning has generally entailed the racialized exclusion of Asians from political citizenship and participation in the national socio-political and cultural life, and the commodification of their bodies as capital. We explore how the process of citizenship nullification produces national subjectivity ineligibility. Their material and symbolic containment is exemplified by concentration camps and a reified identity constructed as ineffably inassimilable, enemy alien, and fetish. We discuss this through an engagement with the lived experiences of Asians in Latin America underscoring their agency and strategies of resistance against racism.

Key issues:

  • Lived experiences of Asians in Latin America
  • The dynamics and operation of anti-Asian racism
  • Strategies of resistance against anti-Asian racism

Required reading:

Required media:

Please watch two of the following before the session:

Bibliography

 

Seminar 5: Race and the city in contemporary Latin America (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 contemporary Latin America. In particular, this session will ask how issues related to residential segregation, multicultural urban policies, placemaking and everyday urbanism, structural inequality and socioeconomic precarity, and social mobilisation are connected to the social construction of “race” across different Latin American geographies. With a particular focus on Afro-descendant urban denizens, we will also seek to question and debunk some common tropes that associate Black life in Latin American cities with necropolitical imaginaries of violence, poverty, marginality, and the topos of the non-urban.

Key issues

  • Residential Segregation
  • Urban Policy and Governance
  • Placemaking and Belonging
  • Cosmopolitan Multiculturalism
  • Anti-Racist Urban Mobilisation

Required reading: (see Moodle)

  • 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.

Required media:

  • Please watch one of the following before the session:

  • Arango García, Juan Andrés (dir.). La Playa D.C., 2012. (Film).
  • Villa Dávila, Adrián and Alejandra Quintana Martínez (dir.). Por qué cantan las aves, 2017. (Documentary, in Spanish with English subtitles).

    Bibliography

     

    Seminar 6: The multicultural turn and contemporary politics of antiracism (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. These policies break with the myths of racial democracy and post-race ideologies promoted by twentieth-century Latin American governments, yet many argue that the "multicultural turn" has enabled new state-led strategies of exclusion and oppression toward racialized communities. In some cases, reparation programmes and affirmative action initiatives have been established to correct the historical damages and inequalities wrought by colonialism, slavery and racism; however, these have raised thorny debates about who should be recognized as Black and Indigenous, and based on what criteria? In this session we will explore these recent developments and discuss the challenges of creating effective, intersectional antiracist movements without reproducing forms of oppression.

    Key issues

    • Multicultural policies and new definitions of race and ethnicity
    • Antiracist strategies and social movements
    • Debates around affirmative action
    • Resurgent forms of racism

    Required reading:

    • Hernández Castillo, Rosalva Aída. ‘Indigeneity as a Field of Power: Multiculturalism and Indigenous Identities in Political Struggles’. In The SAGE Handbook of Identities, edited by Margaret Wetherell and Chandra Mohanty, 379–402. Thousand Oaks: SAGE, 2010. (Moodle)
    • Moreno Figueroa, Mónica. "Antiracism, Intersectionality and the Struggle for Dignity". Lecture for Cambridge Sociology, 30 March 2020. 
    • Paschel, Tianna S. ‘The Right to Difference: Explaining Colombia’s Shift from Color Blindness to the Law of Black Communities’. American Journal of Sociology 116, no. 3 (2010): 729–69.
    • 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.

    Bibliography