Retrospection: Agassiz’s Expeditions in Brazil

Posted in Articles, Biography, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Health/Medicine/Genetics, History, Media Archive on 2021-09-23 02:12Z by Steven

Retrospection: Agassiz’s Expeditions in Brazil

The Harvard Crimson
2016-04-21

Michelle Y. Raji


Louis Rodolphe Agassiz

But for Agassiz, the trip to Brazil was about more than science. Not only was evolution—a process not immediately observable to the human eye—deeply antithetical to Agassiz’s staunch empiricism, evolution was profoundly at odds with his perceived world order.

Three decades after the then-obscure scientist Charles Darwin quietly sketched his now-famous finches aboard the HMS Beagle in the Galapagos, influential Harvard professor Louis Rodolphe Agassiz set out with much greater fanfare on a lesser-known expedition. In 1865, Agassiz and his wife, accompanied by a small group of Harvard scientists and students, set sail from New York to Rio de Janeiro on The Colorado.

In a lecture en route to Brazil, Agassiz challenged Darwin’s revolutionary theory of evolution on the grounds that the theory relied too much on argument and too little on fact. Agassiz posited that evolution was not plausible according to the geologic record. The trip to Brazil was an attempt to disprove Darwin once and for all. Agassiz saw in the unique biodiversity of Brazil a perfect laboratory to test his counter-theories of phylogenetic embryology and glacial catastrophe in the tropics.

But for Agassiz, the trip to Brazil was about more than science. Not only was evolution—a process not immediately observable to the human eye—deeply antithetical to Agassiz’s staunch empiricism, evolution was profoundly at odds with his perceived world order. Though only moderately religious, Agassiz believed in the existence of a creator in all his work. Fortunately for Agassiz, this belief fit well with comparative zoology, which at the time focused heavily on hierarchal classification…

Read the entire article here.

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Episode 154: Boundaries of Love: Interracial Marriages and the Meaning of Race

Posted in Audio, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Family/Parenting, Interviews, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2021-08-17 02:08Z by Steven

Episode 154: Boundaries of Love: Interracial Marriages and the Meaning of Race

Black and Highly Dangerous
2020-12-13

Tyrell Connor, Co-host and Assistant Professor of Sociology
State University of New York, New Paltz

Daphne Michelle, Visiting fellow in Education
Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Science

For today’s episode, we explore how interracial couples navigate racial boundaries by interviewing Dr. Chinyere Osuji, an Assistant Professor at Rutgers University-Camden and author of Boundaries of Love: Interracial Marriage and the Meaning of Race. During the conversation, we discuss her motivation for writing the book (43:10), her decision to conduct research in the U.S. and Brazil (45:50), and the notion of interracial marriage as a potential solution to racism (48:28). We also explore how her identity as a Black woman shaped her conversations with couples about interracial dating (52:25), trends related to why people pursued interracial relationships (55:30), how couples navigated public life and boundary policing (1:04:15), how interracial couples think about their children’s racial identity (1:11:00), and how couples navigate discussions about race (1:16:02). We close the interview by discussing her upcoming project (1:19:50).

Listen to the interview here.

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Phenotypic Proximity: Colorism and Intraracial Discrimination among Blacks in the United States and Brazil, 1928 to 1988

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive on 2021-06-22 22:22Z by Steven

Phenotypic Proximity: Colorism and Intraracial Discrimination among Blacks in the United States and Brazil, 1928 to 1988

Journal of Black Studies
Volume 52, Issue 5 (July 2021)
pages 528-546
DOI: 10.1177/00219347211021088

Teisha Dupree-Wilson, Assistant Professor of History
Coppin State University, Baltimore, Maryland

The level of colorism that developed among blacks in the United States (U.S.) and Brazil, during the 20th century, gave rise to intense altitudes of intraracial discrimination. This distinct form of discrimination was based on proximity to whiteness and white privilege. This essay will illustrate how attitudes toward complexion, within the black community, are a direct consequence and perpetual remnant of the white supremacy and racial hierarchy that developed in colonized societies. Colorism manifested itself in different forms in Brazil and in the U.S. However, the level of black-on-black discrimination that it spawned was grounded in the belief that one’s immediacy to whiteness created a vehicle for upward mobility.

Read or purchase the article here.

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CMRS Book Talk With Dr. Jasmine Mitchell

Posted in Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Social Science, Videos, Women on 2021-04-08 03:35Z by Steven

CMRS Book Talk With Dr. Jasmine Mitchell

Critical Mixed Race Studies
2021-03-08

We’re happy to announce that our first book talk with Dr. Jasmine Mitchell on Imagining the Mulatta: Blackness in U.S. and Brazilian Media is available for you to view on our website and YouTube.

Also, keep a look out for the details of our upcoming book talks! We’ve lined up a couple of recently released books that you’ll love…

Our next one will be with some of the authors from Multiracial Experiences in Higher Education: Contesting Knowledge, Honoring Voice, and Innovating Practice, edited by Drs. Marc P. Johnston-Guerrero and Charmaine L. Wijeyesinghe.

Afterwards, we’ll talk with Drs. Chinelo L. Njaka and Jennifer Patrice Sims on their book, Mixed-Race in the US and UK: Comparing the Past, Present, and Future.

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Camila Pitanga on people questioning her blackness: “It’s as violent as if I was barred from a restaurant or a hotel because of my color.”

Posted in Articles, Arts, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Interviews, Media Archive, Women on 2021-02-09 17:38Z by Steven

Camila Pitanga on people questioning her blackness: “It’s as violent as if I was barred from a restaurant or a hotel because of my color.”

Black Brazil Today
2012-02-11

Marques Travae

Having captured the hearts of millions of Brazilians with her portrayals of several memorable characters in Brazil’s ever popular novelas, Camila Pitanga has earned her wings as a top actress and one of the most visible black actresses on the air. Her success is the fruit of hard work, an early start (appearing in the film Quilombo at age 6 in 1984) and having a famous father couldn’t have hurt (father Antônio Pitanga is a long-time actor). Of her role as Rose, an ex-domestic in the novela, Cama de Gato, Pitanga says: “I identify myself with Rose because she is a fighter and I have this reference in my family. My father is a man of humble origins from Bahia, he was a mailman and it was the arts that created his identity. Rose will not become an artist but she has a dignity that I identify with.”…

Read the entire interview here.

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Suddenly a Person of Color [Plötzlich Person of Color]

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2020-08-26 00:50Z by Steven

Suddenly a Person of Color [Plötzlich Person of Color]

Die Zeit
Hamburg, Germany
2020-08-14

Von Fernanda Thome de Souza

Graciously translated from German into English for me by Gyavira Lasana and his wife Anne.


Ein Leben in Abhängigkeit von der Beurteilung der eigenen Hautfarbe: in Brasilien Subjekt, in Deutschland Objekt © . liane ./​unsplash.com

In Brazil, I was white and privileged, but in Germany I was not white enough. That told me a lot about racism and social participation.

Fernanda Thome de Souza, born in Sao Paulo, has lived in Berlin since 2008, working as a freelance writer, journalist and copywriter. She is a guest author of “10 to 8.” © private

In my first months in Berlin, when I was in the city, I was busy reading subway plans, translating social codes and discovering new landscapes. So I didn’t immediately notice that there was something particularly uncomfortable for me behind the differences and the new.

At some point, in the subway, in the supermarket, at work, I began to feel a disturbing look at my body, burdened with a reproach I had never experienced before. To this day, this gaze, which is determined in transmitting its message, accompanies me. He draws a clear line: that of the territory to which he belongs, where I am read as a stranger, the one that comes from outside.

My skin is dark, my eyebrows are thick, my hair is black and curled. Where I was born, in Brazil, I am white. A fact that is often difficult for Germans to understand. In Berlin I discovered myself as a Person of Color. This process did not happen overnight, but it definitely began with the perception of this depifting gaze.

While, as white people in Brazil, I have the legitimacy to occupy spaces – whether public, academic, professional, or cultural – as a matter of course, my presence here is called into question. While I live in Brazil the privilege of neutrality (I am the center, the “normal”, the subject), in Germany the equation has reversed. Because of my appearance, I was transformed into “the other”, an object of the edge, prone to the arbitrariness of the German white gaze.

I have been living with this ambiguity for twelve years. That, of course, changed me. Oscillating between different sides of social geographies, even from a safe place, has forced me to look beyond my horizons and question my own role. I have started to talk to other Brazilians living in a similar situation in Berlin. I wanted to know if it was just me. What is whiteness in Brazil? Why do we in Germany stop being white? How can the complex backgrounds be described? What have we learned and how has it changed our self-image and our relationship with the society to which we belong?

Legacy of European Colonialism

Brazil is an extremely racist country – a legacy of centuries-old European colonialism. After the abolition of slavery, at the beginning of the 20th century, a group of Brazilian intellectuals was first engaged in formulating the self-image of the young Republic of Brazil. Based on ethnic mixing, the theory of a supposed harmony between the different groups was developed.

Notwithstanding the fact that this ethnic mix-up was caused by the rape of black and indigenous women by white men, the idea served as evidence that there was no racism in Brazil and that in this tropical paradise, everyone, regardless of color or origin, would have equal opportunities. The notorious myth of so-called racial democracy was thus born and disseminated. For decades, racism has been kept out of debate and public policy, and has increasingly become established in all areas of social structure.

Today, the statistics show the brutal ethnic inequality in the country. While the indigenous population has been almost wiped out and now accounts for only 0.4 percent of total society, blacks – just over half of the total population – are systematically oppressed. Seventy-five percent of those killed by the police, 64 percent of the prison inmates and 75 percent of the poorest are black. Every 23 minutes, a young black man is killed in Brazil. Their biographies and struggles are not in the history books, and their religions are still subject to constant persecution.

“Whiteness” in Brazil

Germans, Italians, Jews, Syrians, Lebanese, Japanese and all the other groups that were part of the various waves of migration that have arrived in Brazil since the 19th century were accepted and treated as free people. This immediately gave them advantages and privileges. While the newly liberated black population was let down by the system, immigrants were given subsidized travel tickets and a job guarantee. Europeans were often given additional land for the establishment of colonies, driven by an effort to “wash” the Brazilian population whiter. In Brazil, color is inextricably linked to the class.

“Being white in Brazil means not suffering from racism,” says Berlin-based writer Fred Di Giacomo Rocha. It is said that they are not constantly being watched in the supermarket, that they are not afraid of the police and that they have access to lawyers. It is the knowledge that one’s own rights are respected by the institutions.

The choreographer and stage artist Rodrigo Garcia Alves explains the inequality in the state of schools. “Sending your own children to the best private school in the city is a mark of being white. These are only white environments. Because Brazil is not only a racist country, but also a classicist country.” In fact, enough teachers, hot meals, and school safety are a right reserved for whites, who are already entering the brutal competition for the best university places with a head start. In this context, privilege softens with reward for achievement – social inequality is entrenched.

In the 21st century, being white in Brazil still means coming through the front door and having domestic workers, who are mostly black and underpaid. “It’s impossible not to talk about who is serving and who is being served,” says school social worker D. Wiltshire Soares. “These relationships, which on the one hand are very emotional, on the other hand are also full of violence,” adds Lia Ishida, a Doctoral student in German studies. “It’s about integrating these people into the family without making them equal. A situation very similar to slavery.”

Fall into the European colonial fantasy

We white Brazilians come to Germany with European passports, higher education, fluent English, university places, money in our pockets and all the security, self-respect and arrogance that has been granted to us throughout our lives through historical privileges. Our bodies do not carry the traumas of racism. And yet we have definitely lost the “white status” we were used to here. And what does that mean?

As the Portuguese interdisciplinary artist and author Grada Kilomba put it in her book Plantation Memories, although there are Germans of all skin colors, the colonial fantasy prevails that being German means being white. It is a racism in which prejudice and discrimination arise not from an idea of the superiority of individual “races”, but on the basis of ideas of nation, ethnicity and cultural differences, incompatibilities and hierarchies.

What racism does to all of us

Since being German in the hegemonic imagination means first of all being white, I am automatically marked as someone who does not belong here.

This is the first “transition” of a Brazilian who ceases to be white: the loss of neutrality and the position of the subject. We will immediately become objects that are observed and questioned. Kilomba explains this by referring in her text to the Afro-German experience. While the white subject is preoccupied with the question “What do I see?”, the subject of color is forced to deal with the question “What do they see?” And what they see is not born of a mere interest in the story we have to tell, but from the projection of white fantasies about what we should be.

The experiences of the Brazilians I have spoken to coincide with mine. Deprived of our human complexity, we are reduced to stereotypes that in no way reflect our identity. If you read a Brazilian with a beard as a “terrorist Arab,” he becomes a “harmless Iberian” without a beard. The clothes we wear tell us whether we are read as Syrians or Italians, which means being considered suspicious or not.

Subordination and condescension

Because of this colonial dialectic, as Grada Kilomba defines it, the white subject deserves a position of authority, while the racist is forced to subordination. This hierarchy in relations is repeated from one area to another and represents a loss of status for Brazilians, who until then saw themselves as whites. Actually accustomed to hegemony, our mobility is suddenly monitored, our environment is reduced, our habits and behaviors are questioned and corrected, and finally our experiences and points of view are simplified and disqualified.

When Di Giacomo Rocha presented his latest book at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2019, he criticized the German condescension. The universal voice is a white domain. In his opinion, Latin American literature only gains space when it talks about its regionality, its exotic peripheral reality.

Theories like Kilomba’s have helped me not only to process my experiences in Germany, but above all to understand the extent of my privileges, their structures and the origins of violence. There is an urgent need to break with the white idea of universality. The systematic small-termization of marginal voices is not only used to secure the status quo. It allows the privileged classes to be ignorant of realities of which they prefer not to know. If there is a moral and legitimate obligation to combat racism, there is an urgent need for stolen spaces to be returned to their actual owners. It is necessary to read these voices, to listen to them and to get to know them. Until we irrevocably understand what racism does to us as a society and as a human being.

Read the article in German here.

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“Having a black great-grandmother made me non-white”: Popular white DJ defined herself as brown to enter college through Brazil’s affirmative action program

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Campus Life, Caribbean/Latin America, Passing, Politics/Public Policy on 2020-07-06 13:56Z by Steven

“Having a black great-grandmother made me non-white”: Popular white DJ defined herself as brown to enter college through Brazil’s affirmative action program

Black Women of Brazil
2020-06-11

By Luana Benedito and Juca Guimarães


Larissa Busch defined herself as ‘brown’ in order to get into college through affirmative action

Young woman entered the university in the modality that contemplated “self-declared black, brown or indigenous candidates regardless of income”

24-year-old digital influence Larissa Busch admitted to cheating the racial quota system at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) in a long post on her Instagram profile this Tuesday (2). The young woman, who is white, joined the educational institution in the Social Communication course, in the second half of 2014, in the modality that contemplated “self-declared black, brown or indigenous candidates regardless of income”.

“In 2014, six years ago, I made the worst choice of my life and I’m here to talk about it with all the guilt that I carry. I entered the university calling myself ‘parda’ (brown/mixed). Yes, this is horrible and there is not a day that I don’t think about it. I have kept this shame inside me for a long time and as much as I feel sad that the dirtiest episode of my life is becoming public, I always knew that this day would come”, said Larissa in an excerpt of the text…

Read the entire article here.

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In Brazil, the death of a poor black child in the care of rich white woman brings a racial reckoning

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Justice, Social Science on 2020-06-30 01:18Z by Steven

In Brazil, the death of a poor black child in the care of rich white woman brings a racial reckoning

The Washington Post
2020-06-28

Terrence McCoy


Demonstrators in Recife, Brazil, demand justice for the death of 5-year-old Miguel Otávio Santana da Silva, the son of a black maid who fell from the ninth floor of a building while under the watch of his mother’s white employer. (Leo Malafaia/AFP/Getty Images)

RIO DE JANEIRO — In the early days of Brazil’s coronavirus outbreak, when businesses and churches went dark, anyone who could stay home did. But not Mirtes Souza. She worked as a maid, and her duties cooking and cleaning for a wealthy family were to continue.

One day this month, she left the luxury building to walk the family’s dog, leaving her 5-year-old son, Miguel, in the care of her boss. But security footage broadcast widely in Brazil showed the woman leaving him unattended inside an elevator and the door closing.

The boy rode it to the top of the building and wandered outside. When Souza returned from the walk, she found him crumpled on the pavement outside the luxury building. He’d fallen nine floors.

“I’m a domestic worker,” Souza said in an interview. “But if I was white, and he’d been white, would this have happened?”

Sarí Gaspar, Souza’s employer, has been charged with culpable homicide in the death of Miguel Otávio Santana da Silva. She has asked for Souza’s forgiveness in a public letter…

Read the entire article here.

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Imagining the Mulatta: Blackness in U.S. and Brazilian Media

Posted in Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Monographs, United States, Women on 2020-05-26 20:26Z by Steven

Imagining the Mulatta: Blackness in U.S. and Brazilian Media

University of Illinois Press
May 2020
288 pages
9 color photographs
6 x 9 in.
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-252-04328-4
Paper ISBN: 978-0-252-08520-8

Jasmine Mitchell, Assistant Professor of American Studies and Media Studies
State University of New York, Old Westbury

Mixed-race women and popular culture in Brazil and the United States

Brazil markets itself as a racially mixed utopia. The United States prefers the term melting pot. Both nations have long used the image of the mulatta to push skewed cultural narratives. Highlighting the prevalence of mixed race women of African and European descent, the two countries claim to have perfected racial representation—all the while ignoring the racialization, hypersexualization, and white supremacy that the mulatta narrative creates.

Jasmine Mitchell investigates the development and exploitation of the mulatta figure in Brazilian and U.S. popular culture. Drawing on a wide range of case studies, she analyzes policy debates and reveals the use of mixed-Black female celebrities as subjects of racial and gendered discussions. Mitchell also unveils the ways the media moralizes about the mulatta figure and uses her as an example of an “acceptable” version of blackness that at once dreams of erasing undesirable blackness while maintaining the qualities that serve as outlets for interracial desire.

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Fateful Triangles in Brazil: A Forum on Stuart Hall’s The Fateful Triangle: Race, Ethnicity, Nation, Part II

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Philosophy, Politics/Public Policy on 2020-02-03 21:02Z by Steven

Fateful Triangles in Brazil: A Forum on Stuart Hall’s The Fateful Triangle: Race, Ethnicity, Nation, Part II

Contexto International
Volume 41, Number 2, Rio de Janeiro (May/Aug. 2019)
pages 449-470
DOI: 10.1590/s0102-8529.2019410200012

Sharon A. Stanley, Professor of Political Science
University of Memphis, Memphis, Tennessee

João Nackle Urt, Assistant Professor
Federal University of Grande Dourados (UFGD), Dourados-MS, Brazil

Thiago Braz, Ph.D. Candidate
Institute of International Relations
Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio), Rio de Janeiro-RJ, Brazil

Stuart Hall, a founding scholar in the Birmingham School of cultural studies and eminent theorist of ethnicity, identity and difference in the African diaspora, as well as a leading analyst of the cultural politics of the Thatcher and post-Thatcher years, delivered the W. E. B. Du Bois Lectures at Harvard University in 1994. In the lectures, published after a nearly quarter-century delay as The Fateful Triangle: Race, Ethnicity, Nation (2017), Hall advances the argument that race, at least in North Atlantic contexts, operates as a ‘sliding signifier,’ such that, even after the notion of a biological essence to race has been widely discredited, race-thinking nonetheless renews itself by essentializing other characteristics such as cultural difference. Substituting Michel Foucault’s famous power-knowledge dyad with power-knowledge-difference, Hall argues that thinking through the fateful triangle of race, ethnicity and nation shows us how discursive systems attempt to deal with human difference.

In ‘Fateful Triangles in Brazil,’ Part II of Contexto Internacional’s forum on The Fateful Triangle, three scholars work with and against Hall’s arguments from the standpoint of racial politics in Brazil. Sharon Stanley argues that Hall’s account of hybrid identity may encounter difficulties in the Brazilian context, where discourses of racial mixture have, in the name of racial democracy, supported anti-black racism. João Nackle Urt investigates the vexed histories of ‘race,’ ‘ethnicity’ and ‘nation’ in reference to indigenous peoples, particularly Brazilian Indians. Finally, Thiago Braz shows, from a perspective that draws on Afro-Brazilian thinkers, that emphasizing the contingency of becoming in the concept of diaspora may ignore the myriad ways by which Afro-diasporic Brazilians are marked as being black, and thus subject to violence and inequality.

Part I of the forum – with contributions by Donna Jones, Kevin Bruyneel and William Garcia – critically examines the promise and potential problems of Hall’s work from the context of North America and western Europe in the wake of #BlackLivesMatter and Brexit.

Read the entire article here.

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