The Spectacle of the Races: Scientists, Institutions, and the Race Question in Brazil, 1870-1930

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Social Science, Social Work on 2011-07-27 22:44Z by Steven

The Spectacle of the Races: Scientists, Institutions, and the Race Question in Brazil, 1870-1930

Hill and Wang (an imprint of MacMillan)
September 1999
224 pages
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches
ISBN: 978-0-8090-8789-1, ISBN10: 0-8090-8789-8

Lilia Moritz Schwarcz, Professor of Sociology
University of São Paulo, Brazil

Translated by Leland Guyer, Professor of Hispanic Studies
Macalester University, St. Paul, Minnesota

A provocative analysis of racial identity and nationhood.

“We are a half-breed country . . . We are half-breeds, if not in our blood, then at least in our souls.” With these words, the literary critic Silvio Romero summed up the impression of Brazil a century ago as a “festival of colors.” The spectacle of a mixed-race society in a world that prized racial purity was horrifying to European travelers as well as to Brazil’s intellectuals, who were soon crying out for “one hope, one solution: the whitening of the population within one century.”

But however attractive European notions of racial superiority might have been to Brazil’s elite, they were not easily adapted into the Brazilian context. In The Spectacle of the Races, Lilia Moritz Schwarcz, a leading cultural anthropologist and historian, shows how Brazil’s philosophers, politicians, and scientists gratefully accepted social Darwinist ideas about innate differences among the races yet could not condemn the miscegenation that had so long been an essential feature of Brazilian society-and was at the very heart of a new state-building project as the country modernized. Schwarcz shows how the work of these “men of science” became crucial to the development and survival of Brazil’s basic national structures, affecting the country’s destiny in ways that still apply today, when race remains the basis of Brazil’s self-image.

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