Who is an Indian?: Race, Place, and the Politics of Indigeneity in the Americas

Posted in Anthologies, Anthropology, Books, Brazil, Canada, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Law, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2013-08-24 17:12Z by Steven

Who is an Indian?: Race, Place, and the Politics of Indigeneity in the Americas

University of Toronto Press
August 2013
272 pages
Paper ISBN: 9780802095527
Cloth ISBN: 9780802098184

Edited by:

Maximilian C. Forte, Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology
Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Who is an Indian? This is possibly the oldest question facing Indigenous peoples across the Americas, and one with significant implications for decisions relating to resource distribution, conflicts over who gets to live where and for how long, and clashing principles of governance and law. For centuries, the dominant views on this issue have been strongly shaped by ideas of both race and place. But just as important, who is permitted to ask, and answer this question?

This collection examines the changing roles of race and place in the politics of defining Indigenous identities in the Americas. Drawing on case studies of Indigenous communities across North America, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America, it is a rare volume to compare Indigenous experience throughout the western hemisphere. The contributors question the vocabulary, legal mechanisms, and applications of science in constructing the identities of Indigenous populations, and consider ideas of nation, land, and tradition in moving indigeneity beyond race.


  • Preface
  • Introduction: “Who Is an Indian?” The Cultural Politics of a Bad Question / Maximilian C. Forte (Concordia University, Sociology and Anthropology)
  • Chapter One: Inuitness and Territoriality in Canada / Donna Patrick (Carleton University, Sociology and Anthropology and the School of Canadian Studies)
  • Chapter Two: Federally-Unrecognized Indigenous Communities in Canadian Contexts / Bonita Lawrence (York University, Equity Studies)
  • Chapter Three: The Canary in the Coalmine: What Sociology Can Learn from Ethnic Identity Debates among American Indians / Eva Marie Garroutte (Boston College, Sociology) and C. Matthew Snipp (Stanford University, Sociology)
  • Chapter Four : “This Sovereignty Thing”: Nationality, Blood, and the Cherokee Resurgence / Julia Coates (University of California Davis, Native American Studies)
  • Chapter Five: Locating Identity: The Role of Place in Costa Rican Chorotega Identity / Karen Stocker (California State University, Anthropology)
  • Chapter Six: Carib Identity, Racial Politics, and the Problem of Indigenous Recognition in Trinidad and Tobago / Maximilian C. Forte (Concordia University, Anthropology)
  • Chapter Seven: Encountering Indigeneity: The International Funding of Indigeneity in Peru / José Antonio Lucero (University of Washington, The Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies)
  • Chapter Eight: The Color of Race: Indians and Progress in a Center-Left Brazil / Jonathan Warren (University of Washington, International Studies, Chair of Latin American Studies)
  • Conclusion: Seeing Beyond the State and Thinking beyond the State of Sight / Maximilian C. Forte (Concordia University, Sociology and Anthropology)
  • Contributors
  • Index
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comparative racisms: What anti-racists can learn from Latin America

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2011-03-31 21:30Z by Steven

Comparative racisms: What anti-racists can learn from Latin America

Volume 11, Number 1 (2011-03-31)
pages 32-58
DOI: 10.1177/1468796810388699

Jonathan Warren, Chair of the Center for Brazilian Studies; Associate Professor of International Studies
University of Washington

Christina A. Sue, Assistant Professor of Sociology
University of Colorado, Boulder

There has been extensive debate about the putative imperial dimensions of critical race studies in Latin America. The concern is that US racial discourses, identities and anti-racist strategies are being incorrectly applied to, if not forced upon, Latin America. Those who disagree with this position, including ourselves, argue that it is legitimate to take insights and understandings gleaned in the USA as tools for understanding and challenging racism in Latin America. However, we also believe that the exchange of ideas regarding effective anti-racist strategies should flow in both directions. Therefore, in this article we change the direction of the traditional dialogue by discussing ways in which research in Latin America can inform the theoretical foundation of antiracism in other countries, such as the USA. Specifically, we discuss the implications of current strategies of race mixing, minimization of racial consciousness, colorblindness, multiculturalism and racism literacy for current theories of anti-racism.

There has been extensive debate about the putative imperial dimensions of critical race studies in Latin America. The concern is that US racial discourses, identities and anti-racist strategies are being incorrectly applied to, if not forced upon, Latin America. Is it appropriate to refer to self-identified mixed-race Latin Americans as ‘black’ or ‘Indian’? Should the language of US anti-racism, which includes terms such as white supremacy and segregation, be used to describe the racial terrain in Latin America? Is the encouragement of black and indigenous movements in Latin America productive? Sociologists Pierre Bourdieu and Loïc Wacquant (1999) have argued that US perspectives on race represent merely another dimension of ‘cunning imperialist reason’. Latin America is being pressured to emulate not only US models of capitalism, modernity and democracy, but also its less-than-laudable politics of race.

Those who disagree with this position, including ourselves, argue that it is legitimate to take insights and understandings gleaned in the USA as tools for understanding and challenging racism in Latin America. Theoretical models, concepts and political tactics can be inappropriately applied to different contexts, but this certainly is not inevitable. In fact, ideas, directions, clues and insights generated in one region may prove useful in another part of the world, especially when applied with a learned sensitivity of the particularities of the place, both from which the lessons were generated and to which they are being applied. Just as it has proved beneficial to take theoretical and political insights generated in Europe to better understand and navigate capitalism and modernity elsewhere in the world, it is equally suitable to use knowledge garnered in US anti-racist endeavors to situations beyond its borders. Indeed, it seems arbitrary to suggest that intellectuals and activists can draw on the traditions of Weber and Kafka, but not on those of DuBois and Morrison. To dismiss exchanges based on these latter traditions as ‘brutal ethnocentric intrusions’ or the advancement of ‘racistoid perspectives’ (Bordieu and Wacquant, 1999) seems crude and reductive at best.

Largely overlooked in the heat of this debate have been the insights that Latin America may offer the ongoing struggle against racism in the USA and elsewhere. This article hopes to enliven this nascent discussion (see Sawyer, 2003; Telles, 2004; Wade, 2004), and perhaps, in the process, alleviate some of the feelings of US imperialism given the North–South direction of the didactic process in recent decades. In other words, rather than focusing on what the US experience can teach Latin America (the emphasis of much of the scholarship in the past few decades), we wish to elaborate on the lessons race and ethnic studies in Latin America may hold for anti-racists in the USA. Fortunately, many putative solutions to racism currently touted in the USA are not untested propositions. Although unbeknownst to many proponents of these anti-racist proposals, their ideas have circulated and have undergone empirical scrutiny for well over a century in other parts of the hemisphere.

Below, then, is a discussion of some of the key findings from the contemporary scholarship on race in Latin America. This overview is not meant to be a review of the increasingly vast literature on the topic; instead we seek to highlight those findings that are of particular relevance to ongoing policy and academic debates in the North Atlantic. To scholars of race in Latin America, this selected summary offers an original synopsis of literature on race and racism in the region. Our intended audience, however, is not foremost Latin Americanists but rather North Atlantic scholars and policymakers, who could benefit greatly from a better understanding of the Latin American experience with race…

Race mixing and mixed-race identities have not proven successful anti-racist strategies.

In the United States it is often implied, if not explicitly stated, that race mixing will disarm racism (AMEA, 1997–2006;2 Daniel, 2002; D’Souza, 1995; Gay, 1987; Fernández, 1996; Harris, 1964; Kalmijn, 1998; Nakashima, 1992; Patterson, 2000; Zack, 1993). Social pundit Dinesh D’Souza argues, in The End of Racism, that ‘the country is entering a new era in which old racial categories are rapidly becoming obsolete. The main reason for this is intermarriage’ (1995: 552). Writing in The New Republic, under the headline ‘Race Over’, the Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson asserts that the color line will not be an issue much longer since ‘migratory, sociological, and biotechnological developments’ are undermining race (2000: 6). Cultural and biological race mixing, coupled with new biotechnological methods to change hair texture and skin color, enabling African Americans to ‘enhance their individuality’ by ‘opting for varying degrees of hybridity’, will ultimately change the future of race (Patterson, 2000: 6). The outlook is clear to Patterson: ‘By the middle of the twenty-first century, America will have problems aplenty. But no racial problems whatsoever’ (2000: 6). By 2050, ‘the social virus of race will have gone the way of smallpox’ (2000: 6).

The ‘race mixers’’ basic thesis is that, if racial identities and the physical markers of these traditional categories are eroded, giving way to multiracial identities and a racial continuum, then racial discrimination will fade. It is promised that the racial hierarchy will evaporate if Americans emphasize their commonalities (rather than their differences) with their compatriots by embracing café-au-lait identities and attempting through miscegenation (or biotechnology), to produce greater numbers of mixed-race (or hybrid-looking) subjects. Reginald Daniel, for one, sees multiracial identities as enabling ‘whites and blacks and everyone in between to transcend their separate and hostile worlds… Such a transformation in thought and behavior would move the US closer to the ideal of a land of equal opportunity for all’ (2002: 194). Susanne Heine, a guest editor for Interracial Voice, also sees multiracial practices as a powerful tool for dismantling the racial hierarchy. ‘Intermarriage’, she asserts, will make:

‘Black America’ just one more of history’s footnotes… With each new wave of immigrants who cause new mixes to arise, ‘Black America’ and ‘White America’ will continue to fade into each other, atrophying and losing their steam, even as ‘America’, the one, the real and the only, that Destiny has as her ultimate design, begins taking shape. (2006: 3–4).

In sum, US advocates of race mixing clearly anticipate that such practices will lead to the disappearance of racism in society.

In Latin America, intellectuals, governments and ordinary citizens have long promoted mestizaje (race mixture) as the means for transcending race and producing national cohesion. For example, early 20th-century Mexican social scientists and policy makers vigorously advocated for race mixing in order to erode racial divisions, which they viewed as impeding national cohesion and development. As Alan Knight notes, the Reforma was concerned that Mexico had ‘failed to create a genuine, unitary nation—after the model of France, Germany or Japan, nations from which ‘‘there arises a solemn cry of shared blood, of shared flesh, that cry which is above all else, since it is the voice of life, the mysterious force which pulls material together and resists its disintegration’’’ (citing Manuel Gamio, Knight, 1990: 88). The need to build a unified nation thus rested on the creation of a mixed-race population…

…Despite the race-mixers’ predictions, both past and present, the official encouragement and popular embrace of mixed-race practices and identities have not ended race or racism in Latin America. To be sure, blackness and Indianness as habitable identities have been dramatically weakened; however, this café con leche reality has not led to the demise of race. As one Afro-Cuban doctor noted: ‘Race is a problem here. Race mixture only creates other categories and a means to whiten your children. But everyone knows that it is best to be white and worst to be black’ (Sawyer, 2006: 124). Similarly, in Venezuela, despite the pride of a café con leche mixed race identity, Venezuelans want to have as little café and as much leche as possible (Herrera Salas, 2007; Wright, 1990). In other words, far from diminishing racism, mixed-race identities have been claimed as a strategic measure to escape blackness and Indianness (Burdick, 1998a; Degler, 1971; Goldstein, 2003; Sue, 2010; Twine, 1998).

Furthermore, scholars of race in Latin America have argued that the region’s emphasis on race mixture has masked race-based inequalities and discrimination (Hasenbalg and Huntington, 1982; Twine, 1998), allowed prejudice to go unchecked (Robinson, 1999; Sagrera, 1974), and produced a feeling of relief among whites, exempting them from the responsibility of addressing racial inequities (Hasenbalg, 1996). Additionally, others believe it has inhibited demands for indigenous and black rights and access to resources (Mollett, 2006). To take one example, Charles Hale (1999) found that discourses of mestizaje and hybridity closed discussions of collective rights and racism just when these discussions were beginning to make a difference in Guatemala. Confirming Hale’s observations, Tilley noted that the budding Mayan movement has stimulated a more politically potent backlash anchored in the widely accepted belief that race mixing has eroded racial distinctions. That is, ‘collective Mayan protest was [portrayed as] nonsensical and specious, even racist [because] Indian and Spanish races had long ago been ‘forged’ into one’ (Tilley, 2005).

Unfortunately, then, the promotion of race mixture, as well as identification as mestizo and white by individuals of African and indigenous descent, have not delivered the blow to racism that many have predicted. Studies of Latin America show that race continues to be socially significant even though racial identifications and locations are smooth gradations rather than entrenched positions (Martinez Novo, 2006; Sawyer, 2006; Telles, 2004; Wade, 1993). Racial inequalities flourish despite the fact that race mixture and interracial marriage have been commonplace and officially encouraged for more than a century…

Read or purchase the article here.
Read a corrected proof here.

Tags: , , , ,

Racial Revolutions: Antiracism and Indian Resurgence in Brazil

Posted in Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Monographs, Social Science on 2010-08-25 04:39Z by Steven

Racial Revolutions: Antiracism and Indian Resurgence in Brazil

Duke University Press
392 pages
46 b&w photos, 1 map, 3 figures
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2731-8
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8223-2741-7

Jonathan W. Warren, Associate Professor of International and Latin American Studies
University of Washington

Since the 1970s there has been a dramatic rise in the Indian population in Brazil as increasing numbers of pardos (individuals of mixed African, European, and indigenous descent) have chosen to identify themselves as Indians. In Racial Revolutions—the first book-length study of racial formation in Brazil that centers on Indianness—Jonathan W. Warren draws on extensive fieldwork and numerous interviews to illuminate the discursive and material forces responsible for this resurgence in the population.

The growing number of pardos who claim Indian identity represents a radical shift in the direction of Brazilian racial formation. For centuries, the predominant trend had been for Indians to shed tribal identities in favor of non-Indian ones. Warren argues that many factors—including the reduction of state-sponsored anti-Indian violence, intervention from the Catholic church, and shifts in anthropological thinking about ethnicity—have prompted a reversal of racial aspirations and reimaginings of Indianness. Challenging the current emphasis on blackness in Brazilian antiracist scholarship and activism, Warren demonstrates that Indians in Brazil recognize and oppose racism far more than any other ethnic group.

Racial Revolutions fills a number of voids in Latin American scholarship on the politics of race, cultural geography, ethnography, social movements, nation building, and state violence.

Designated a John Hope Franklin Center book by the John Hope Franklin Seminar Group on Race, Religion, and Globalization.

Tags: , ,

White Americans, The New Minority? Non-Blacks and the Ever-Expanding Boundaries of Whiteness

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2010-08-25 04:25Z by Steven

White Americans, The New Minority? Non-Blacks and the Ever-Expanding Boundaries of Whiteness

Jonathan W. Warren, Associate Professor of International and Latin American Studies
University of Washington

France Winddance Twine, Professor of Sociology
University of California, Santa Barbara

Journal of Black Studies
Volume 28, Number 2 (November 1997)
pages 200-218

Argues that in the United States the “white” racial category has expanded across time to include groups previously considered “non-white.” The role of blacks in this expansion is explored as well as whether white Americans are really becoming a numerical minority. An alternative racial future to the one frequently forecasted is suggested.

…But are Whites really becoming a minority? Does the escalation of non-European immigrants mean that minorities are becoming a majority? The logic of the argument appears sound enough: Immigration from Asia and Latin America is increasing, and because  these people are non-Whites, then eventually non-Whites will be in the numerical majority. Yet, this argument hinges on an unexamined premise—the essentialist premise that Whiteness is a fixed racial category. In other words, one can only draw the conclusion that Whites are becomin a minority if one assumes that racial categories are static across time and place. However, as the  following experience of Amy Pagnozzi suggests, such an assumption is dubious at best…

…In this article, we will argue that in the United States the “White” racial category has expanded across time to include groups previously considered “non-White.” The Irish will be used as an example of how groups, at one time considered to be neither White nor Black, have been racially repositioned as White. We will then explore the importance of the role of Blacks in the expansion of the White category. Finally, we will return to the question of whether White Americans are actually in danger of becoming a numerical minority, given the sharp increase in Latin American and Asian immigration, and suggest an alternative racial future to the one so often forecasted….

Read or purchase the article here.

Tags: , , ,