Brazil’s Ongoing Race Problem: Recent Study Uncovers Shocking Treatment of Darker-Skinned Children in Interracial Families

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, Social Science on 2017-07-10 02:22Z by Steven

Brazil’s Ongoing Race Problem: Recent Study Uncovers Shocking Treatment of Darker-Skinned Children in Interracial Families

Atlanta Black Star

D. Amari Jackson

SALVADOR, BRAZIL -Social psychologist finds Black Brazilian children in interracial families face shocking racism. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

“The most shocking story I heard was told by a young woman, a university student who came to see me… she was phenotypically ‘Black’ but her mother was ‘white.’ She told me that when she was little, her mother would sing a lullaby with these words: ‘Plantei uma cenoura no meu quintal / Nasceu uma negrinha de avental / Dança negrinha / Não sei dançar / Pega no chicote, ela dança já’ [I planted a carrot in my backyard. / It sprouted a nigger girl in an apron. / Dance, little nigger girl! / I can’t dance. / Show her the whip, she’ll dance alright.] Her mother’s lullaby wasn’t just racist, it was a slave owner’s song.” — Social psychologist Lia Vainer Schucman from a June 2017 interview with Agência FAPESP in Brazil

Perhaps you’ve heard of the ‘bleach bath,’ a popular process designed to significantly lighten one’s skin. Or maybe the clothespin, the laundry drying device that doubles as a nighttime nasal clamp to narrow the width of what is regarded as a phenotypically Black nose. Here in the 21st century, such tragic racialized practices and psychoses are, unfortunately, still alive and well in countries across the globe.

This acknowledged, there is a common perception that the more racially diverse and interracial a society and its relationships become, the less racism it will endure. It is a questionable line of reasoning particularly prevalent in Brazil where racially mixed societies and families are the norm. It fuels the popular national narrative that racial prejudice cannot exist in South America’s largest country since “somos todos iguais” (“we are all equal”).

A recent study by social psychologist and researcher Lia Vainer Schucman says otherwise. In it, Schucman interviewed interracial families from regions across Brazil willing to discuss the manifestations and impact of racism within their units as part of her postdoctoral work at the University of São Paulo. Sponsored by Agência FAPESP, a media service of the São Paulo Research Foundation, Schucman’s research is the subject of her upcoming book, “Famílias Inter-Raciais: Tensões entre Cor e Amor” (Inter-Racial Families: Tensions Between Color and Love)…

Read the entire article here.

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Disrupting Racialized Knowledges: Blackness in Salvador da Bahia

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Communications/Media Studies, Interviews, Media Archive on 2016-10-27 19:00Z by Steven

Disrupting Racialized Knowledges: Blackness in Salvador da Bahia

Friktion Magasin for Køn, Krop and Kultur

Morten Stinus Kristensen

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dr. Bryce Henson who recently defended his dissertation Rediasporizing Bahia: The Lived Experiences of Blackness and the Cultural Politics of Bahian Hip-Hop at the Institute of Communications Research at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. In the following interview, which has been edited for clarity, structure, and brevity, Dr. Henson discusses one element of his wide-ranging dissertation project: how the Black population of Salvador da Bahia, the former colonial capital of Brazil where Dr. Henson did his fieldwork, push back against the idealized idea of Blackness that dominates the Brazilian national imaginary of Bahia, and how this fantasy of Bahia serves a central function for upholding the fantasy of Brazil as a post-racial nation and culture.

MSK: How do you define Blackness and how do you use it, conceptually and methodologically in your work?

BH: So I work through three interlocking definitions of Blackness. I locate the first definition of Blackness within the African diaspora in how Black bodies or bodies ascribed to Africa are inscribed with negative cultural and moral values. Then, I define it not only as a racialization process but also as an ethnoracial identity formed by those within the community. Finally, I define Blackness by how Black subjects take this as a political imperative to critique white supremacy and, at another level, not only critique white supremacy and the way that Blackness operates in their own lives, but challenge that very stigma of Blackness itself and to alter and change those prescriptive values that are attached to their bodies.

So methodologically and conceptually what I did [in this project] was I combined critical Black studies with British cultural studies. The first thing I did was to look at the dominant representations and [cultural] codes in which Blackness is understood. But also I intersect that with how these discourses are lived and the material conditions of [Black life] through ethnographic research. How do those everyday meanings, made out of the domain of Black lives, cause friction with these dominant representations or discourses? Then at a final stage, I tie this intersection between dominant representations and lived realities of race to Blacks’ own cultural production as a form of political participation. This serves not only as a site of media making, but also knowledge production that can at the very least disrupt racialized knowledges.

So in short, what I do is loop Blackness from the dominant representations to the material and lived conditions – and then also back how that circulates and how people speak back. With that, I am drawing on scholars such as Tricia Rose, James Snead, and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. to emphasize Afro-diasporic models of culture that utilize repetition, layering, the cut, sampling and intertextuality in how Blackness is always in conversation with not only other Afro-diasporic members but also with the dominant society as well. So you have this transnational dialogue among each other but also the social forces that are impinging on their lives…

MSK: All national and cultural contexts differ in how race in general and Blackness in particular is constructed and operate. How did this understanding of Blackness guide your work and what did you find?

BH: The interesting thing about Brazil is how Blackness is celebrated in quite a few but extremely limited ways through Afro-Brazilian culture, such as the hypersexual mulata, samba music, and male football players. Brazil uses this to portray itself as being racially exceptional, which attempts to say that racism is not a factor there. In many instances, many people would say to bring up race or even racial divisions is itself racist. The kind of national mythology of Brazil or the grand narrative is what we broadly call racial exceptionalism is such: Brazil had much more benign colonizing and slavery structures. As a result, race is not a matter of social division and that racism is not a social ill. One way they do that is to stress the interracial mixture that began in its colonial era and continues today. Keep in mind that, like in the United States, the Portuguese colonizer coerced African and Indigenous women into sex, often forcibly through rape. But this gets erased under national mythologies which is articulated through the racial democracy myth, national identities, and the fetishization of the hypersexual mulata. In short, it says to be Brazilian is to be racially mixed –to be mixed with Indigenous, African, European ancestry—and that is evidence of a raceless society.

Salvador da Bahia is crucial to these national mythologies. Bahia is crudely speaking the most African area in Brazil. Its population is approximately 80% African descendant in a city of three million. And that includes both dark-skinned and mixed Brazilians. But the discourses around Bahia are very much that of a city locked in the past with these kinds of premodern African cultural aesthetics that become widely known and celebrated and then circulate as the global imaginary…

Read the entire article here.

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Three personal stories that show Brazil is not completely beyond racism

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Social Science on 2015-08-05 02:08Z by Steven

Three personal stories that show Brazil is not completely beyond racism

The Globe and Mail
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Stephanie Nolen, Latin America Correspondent

Brazil’s national mythology is built on the idea of a democracia racial – a country whose population is uniquely mixed and has moved beyond racism.

The lived experience of its citizens, especially the majority who are black or mixed-race, tells a different story. Three residents of Bahia, known as the country’s “blackest” state, share their personal stories with The Globe and Mail’s Stephanie Nolen.

‘It’s not easy to start working when you’re 12’

Cleusa de Jesus Santos was one of eight children whose father left when she was small. Her mother, illiterate and living in a slum, had no way to feed them all. “A friend of my mum’s said, ‘There is a person who needs a girl, just to watch her son, to keep him company.’”

So Ms. Santos was sent. “But when I got there, the reality was completely different: They said they were going to put me in school and so on, and they didn’t. I didn’t have vacation. I couldn’t see my family.”…

Read the entire article here.

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Sex Tourism in Bahia: Ambiguous Entanglements

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Social Science on 2014-02-12 08:58Z by Steven

Sex Tourism in Bahia: Ambiguous Entanglements

University of Illinois Press
December 2013
224 pages
1 map
6 x 9 in
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-252-03793-1
Paper ISBN: 978-0-252-07944-3

Erica Lorraine Williams, Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Spelman College, Atlanta, Georgia

Winner of the National Women’s Studies Association/University of Illinois Press First Book Prize

How sexism, racism, and socio-economic inequality interact in the Brazilian sex industry

Brazil has the largest economy of any Latin American country with a population five times greater than any other South American country, and for nearly a decade, Brazil has surpassed Thailand as the world’s premier sex tourism destination. As the first full-length ethnography of sex tourism in Brazil, this pioneering study treats sex tourism as a complex and multidimensional phenomenon that involves a range of activities and erotic connections, from sex work to romantic transnational relationships. Erica Lorraine Williams explores sex tourism in the Brazilian state of Bahia from the perspectives of foreign tourists, tourism industry workers, sex workers who engage in liaisons with foreigners, and Afro-Brazilian men and women who contend with foreigners’ stereotypical assumptions about their licentiousness.

In her analysis, Williams argues that the cultural and sexual economies of tourism are inextricably linked in the Bahian capital city of Salvador’s tourism industry. She shows how the Bahian state strategically exploits the touristic desire for exotic culture by appropriating an eroticized blackness and commodifying the Afro-Brazilian culture in order to sell Bahia to foreign travelers. Drawing on eighteen months of ethnographic research and in-depth interviews, Sex Tourism in Bahia: Ambiguous Entanglements combines historical, sociological, anthropological, cultural studies, and feminist perspectives to demonstrate how sexism, racism, and socio-economic inequality interact in the context of tourism in Bahia.

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The aesthetic escape hatch: carnaval, blocos afro and the mutations of baianidade under the signs of globalisation and re-Africanisation

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive on 2012-07-08 00:16Z by Steven

The aesthetic escape hatch: carnaval, blocos afro and the mutations of baianidade under the signs of globalisation and re-Africanisation

Journal of Iberian and Latin American Research
Volume 5, Issue 2, 1999
pages 65-98
DOI: 10.1080/13260219.1999.10431798

Piers Armstrong
Universidade Federal da Bahia, Brazil

This article examines the notion of baianidade, the cultural cosmovision traditionally associated with the state of Bahia and more specifically with the region of the Baía de Todos os Santos. A series of connotations for the term are examined, including cordiality, racial democracy and miscegenation. Through the cultural practice of baianidade, a social compromise is effected whereby material space and symbolic prestige are conceded to the black community in exchange for a relative political passivity. This exchange is not construed here as a conscious manoeuvre by the established powers, but rather in terms of the internal logic of an economy of symbolic capital. To exemplify both the fluidity and the semantic essentialism characteristic of baianidade, the article proceeds to the cultural semantics of the related term, baiana, a nominalized adjective which etymologically denotes a female native of the region, but by extension also denotes one among the various local religions and an associated culinary tradition. Against this essentializing consolidation, the article then considers contemporary uses of the term within a more individualistic consumer society. Finally, baianidade is compared synchronically to other major ideo-esthetic discourses of the Black diaspora.

Introduction: Bahian carnaval

The carnaval of Salvador, capital of Bahia State in Brazil, has grown immensely in popularity in recent years, so that it now rivals the more famous Rio carnaval in terms of numbers of visitors. Carnaval culture—music, dance, consumption and consequent entrepreneurial opportunities—has spread to the whole calendar of annual and weekly festivities, religious and secular, and has transformed Bahian society both in terms of its internal recreation patterns and in terms of its relations with external society. While the prominent traditional agricultural industries (cocoa, cattle, and vegetables) have encountered difficulties and contracted, tourism, largely based around carnaval or carnavalesque attractions, has increased spectacularly and become the centre of growth strategies. The old centre of Salvador has been transformed from extreme poverty and physical decay into the central tourist destination. Bahian pop music has penetrated the national and international markets. Bahian practices such as capoeira (martial arts dance) have spread around the world. An ever-growing number of international visitors (about 400,000 a year in a city of 2.5 million) arrive by plane, in search of cultural vitality and authenticity. The sheer volume of international visitors and the prominence of tourism as a source of new employment has also transformed local experience through personal exposure to foreigners with different ideas. A significant number of persons from previously completely marginalised classes have visited or lived in Western European countries as a result of this contact. While world globalisation (access and interaction between different locations) has been the pre-condition of the cultural marketing of Salvador to the world, the city itself has undergone globalisation in terms of qualitative culture as well as economic modernisation…

Read the entire article here.

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Intimacy and Inequality: Manumission and Miscegenation in Nineteenth-Century Bahia (1830-1888)

Posted in Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Dissertations, History, Media Archive, Slavery, Women on 2011-12-19 22:04Z by Steven

Intimacy and Inequality: Manumission and Miscegenation in Nineteenth-Century Bahia (1830-1888)

University of Nottingham
April 2010
428 pages

Jane-Marie Collins

Thesis submitted to the University of Nottingham for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Hispanic and Latin American Studies

This thesis proposes a new paradigm for understanding the historical roots of the myth of racial democracy in Brazil. In order to better comprehend the co-existence of race discrimination and racial democracy in Brazil it is argued that the myth itself needs to be subjected to an analysis which foregrounds the historically unequal relations of both race and gender. This study demonstrates how the enigma that is Brazilian race relations is the result of two major oversights in the scholarly work to date. First, the lack of critical attention to the historical processes and practices which gave rise to the so-called unique version of race relations in Brazil: manumission and miscegenation. Second, the sidelining of the role of gender and sex, as well as the specific and central place of black women’s labour, in theoretical formulations about Brazilian race relations.

The overarching intellectual aim of this thesis is to invert the way notions of familiarity and intimacy have been represented in the history of miscegenation and manumission in Brazilian slave society. The role of intimacy in the social history of race relations is instead shown to be firmly located within a hierarchy of race and gender inequalities predicated on the inferiority of blacks and women. In turn, this thesis explores how these race and gender inequalities intersected to inform and shape enslaved women’s versions of resistance and visions of freedom. In doing so this study unpicks some of the notions of advantage and privilege traditionally associated with women in general and light skin colour in particular in the processes of manumission and miscegenation; notions that are foundational to the myth of racial democracy.

Through an examination and analysis of primary sources pertaining to the lives of enslaved and freedwomen and their descendants in nineteenth-century Bahia, this study brings together different areas of their lived experiences of enslavement, manumission, miscegenation and freedom as these women came into contact with the authorities at pivotal moments in their lives. Collectively, these sources and the analysis thereof expose the limitations of advantage or privilege that have been associated with being female, parda or mulatta in the historiography of Brazilian slave society in general and the literature on manumission in particular. By foregrounding and highlighting the ways in which overlapping inequalities of race, gender and status determined experiences of enslavement and expectations of freedom during slavery, this study produces a new approach to interpreting race and gender history in Brazil, and a more comprehensive understanding of Brazilian slave labour relations.


  • Acknowledgements
  • Glossary
  • Section One: Introduction
    • Part 1: Introduction and overview
    • Part 2: ntimacy and Inequality: inverting the paradigm of racial democracy
  • Section Two: Becoming Freed
    • 2.1 Introduction
    • 2.2 Manumission in comparative perspective
    • 2.3 Manumission in Africa
    • 2.4 Manumission in the Americas
    • 2.5 Manumission in Brazil
    • 2.6 Manumission, a gendered perspective: assessing advantage
    • 2.7 Childhood manumissions, Salvador 1830-1871
    • 2.8. Disputing and defending freed status
    • 2.9 Conclusion
  • Section Three: Work, Wealth and Mobility
    • Part 1: The Demographics of Slavery in nineteenth-century Brazil
      • 3.1 Introduction
      • 3.2 The slave trades: trans-Atlantic and domestic
      • 3.3 Brazilian slave societies: provincial profiles
      • 3.4 Conclusion
      • 3.5 Occupational hierarchies, race and gender
      • 3.6 Conclusion
    • Part 2: Manumission and Mobility
      • 3.7 Introduction
      • 3.8 Manumission and creolisation
      • 3.9 Manumission and mobility
      • 3.10 Lourença on liberty
      • 3.11 Markets, labour and love
      • 3.12 Africanas and brasileiras, libertas and livres
      • 3.13 Motherhood and marriage
      • 3.14 Material wealth
      • 3.15 Markets and mobility
      • 3.16. Lourença’s last words
      • 3.17 Conclusion
  • Section Four: The Enslaved Family: Unity, Stability and Viability
    • 4.1 Introduction
    • 4.2 The historiography of the Brazilian slave family: an overview
    • 4.3 Slave family 1: African/urban
    • 4.4 Slave family 2: mixed race/mixed status
    • 4.5 Slave family 3: married/rural
    • 4.6 Slave family 4: slave/free marriage
    • 4.7. Conclusion
  • Section Five: Resistance
    • 5.1. Introduction
    • Part 1: Flight
      • 5.2 Paradigms
      • 5.3 Male flight
      • 5.4 Female flight: single women
      • 5.5 Female flight, family and protection
      • 5.6 Conclusion
    • Part 2: Murder
      • 5.7 Introduction
      • 5.8 Case studies
      • 5.9 Analysis
      • 5.10 Conclusion
    • Part 3: Infanticide
      • 5.11 Introduction
      • 5.12 Infanticide and slave resistance
      • 5.13 Infanticide and Illegitimacy: a question of honour?
      • 5.14 Conclusion
  • Section Six: Conclusion
  • Appendix
  • Sources and Bibliography

Read the entire thesis here.

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“Girl, You Are Not Morena. We Are Negras!”: Questioning the Concept of “Race” in Southern Bahia, Brazil

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science on 2010-10-10 23:15Z by Steven

“Girl, You Are Not Morena. We Are Negras!”: Questioning the Concept of “Race” in Southern Bahia, Brazil

Volume 35, Issue 3 (September 2007)
pages 383-409
DOI: 10.1525/eth.2007.35.3.383

Michael D. Baran, Preceptor in Expository Writing
Harvard University

In 2003, teachers at the municipal high school in Belmonte, Brazil, began presenting students with a radically different ideology about racial categorization: an essentialized ideology that defines anyone not “purely” branco (white) as negro (black). This system of categorization conflicts with popular belief in a mixed-race moreno identity based not only on ancestry but also on observable physical features. Through a combination of ethnographic and experimental methods, I examine this apparent clash of ideologies in Belmonte with respect to academic theories on the cognition of race and ethnicity. I show how children and adults integrate certain aspects of essentialism but not others in their constructions of identity and in the way they reason about hypothetical scenarios. These nuanced solutions to the challenges posed by explicit conflicts over supposedly natural categories lead to my own questioning of race in anthropological theory.

During a March afternoon in 2003, in an eighth-grade science class in Belmonte, Brazil, racial ideologies collided. The lesson of the day dealt with human biology and basic genetics. One student in the class asked the teacher about the biology of race mixing. The teacher then tried to clarify the supposedly natural facts about racial classification for the class. She explained that there were only two races—blonde and blue-eyed brancos (whites) and everyone else, considered negros (blacks). Although a few heads nodded in approval, most of the class looked confused or upset. The teacher was presenting a particularly extreme form of the racial classification system that black movements have urged Brazilians to adopt, one in which those with any traceable African ancestry would self-identify as “negro” as a sign of positive self-image and political solidarity. While this conception of “negro” has been animating black movements for at least 25 years in Brazil’s urban centers, it has only now reached more rural areas like Belmonte. And it is not always well received.

“I’m morena, not negra!”2 cried 14-year old Paula. This claim of mixed-race “brown” identity echoes the more common ideology in Belmonte, academically labeled “racial democracy.” The roots of this ideology extend back to Brazilian sociologist Gilberto Freyre’s influential 1933 book, The Masters and the Slaves (1946). Freyre found strength in the biological and cultural mixing of Portuguese colonizers, native Brazilians, and slaves of African descent, whereas race scientists before him saw only physical and mental weakness (Freyre 1946; Nina Rodrigues 1938; Ramos 1939). Freyre’s foundational story, still framing Brazilian history in school texts, holds that historical mixing has created an ethnically unified population without stark racial divisions or resulting discriminations making Brazil a supposed “racial paradise.” Consistent with this ideology, most residents of Belmonte prefer to self-identify with the inclusive term morena, which can be used in various linguistic contexts to refer to almost any combination of physical features. To call someone a “negra” within this racial democracy ideology is to separate them out from the mixed Brazilian mainstream and denigrate them as a separate category of “pure” black, associated with slavery and Africa. That is just what caused a stir when Ana Maria yelled out to Paula, “Girl, you are not morena. We are negras!”

In the title of this article, the phrase “Questioning the Concept of Race” has two levels of significance. First, it refers to the questions of some students as teachers impose new identity categories that clash with previously held “common sense” beliefs about race. Second, the title of this article refers to my own questions regarding academic conceptions of race. In the literature on racial categorization in Brazil, I found two different arguments that parallel the debate in the class between Ana Maria and Paula. On the one hand, a more conventional wisdom holds that racial categories in Brazil are multiple (up to hundreds in some cases), they can change from day to day or person to person, and they are based on physical features rather than rules of descent (Harris 1970; Harris and Kottak 1963; Kottak 1983).5 On the other hand, recent critics, both anthropological and psychological, argue that racial categories in Brazil are essentialized: they are dichotomous, rigid, and defined by descent (Gil-White 2001b; Sheriff 2001). Observing the coexistence of both ideologies in Belmonte and the active construction of supposedly natural categories by local actors led me to question both sides of this scholarly debate and to question the academic concept of race more generally…

Read or purchase the article here.

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