Beyond Fixed or Fluid: Degrees of Fluidity in Racial Identification in Latin America

Posted in Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Census/Demographics, Papers/Presentations, Social Science on 2012-05-25 23:05Z by Steven

Beyond Fixed or Fluid: Degrees of Fluidity in Racial Identification in Latin America

The Project on Ethnicity and Race in Latin America
Princeton University
60 pages

Edward E. Telles, Professor of Sociology
Princeton University

Tianna S. Paschel, Post Doctoral Fellow (Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of Political Science as of July 2012)
Department of Political Science
University of Chicago

Com­par­a­tive research on race and eth­nic­ity has often turned to Latin Amer­ica where racial iden­tity is seen as fluid. Using nation­ally rep­re­sen­ta­tive data from the 2010 America’s Barom­e­ter, we exam­ined the extent to which skin color, nation, class and region shape who iden­ti­fies as black or mulato in Brazil, Costa Rica, Panama, Colom­bia and the Domini­can Repub­lic. While racial cat­e­gories over­lap sig­nif­i­cantly, skin color largely deter­mines both black and mulatto self-identification in all five coun­tries although its effect varies con­sid­er­ably. We dis­cov­ered dis­tinc­tive pat­terns in racial flu­id­ity, in how color shapes racial clas­si­fi­ca­tion, in the fre­quency of black and mixed-race cat­e­gories, and in the influ­ence of sta­tus and region on racial clas­si­fi­ca­tion. We sug­gest that these pat­terns are related to nation­al­ist nar­ra­tives, state poli­cies and black move­ment orga­niz­ing. These find­ings chal­lenge widely held assump­tions about race rela­tions in Latin Amer­ica, sug­gest­ing rather that unique national his­to­ries have given way to dif­fer­ent sys­tems of race clas­si­fi­ca­tion in each coun­try. We advance the con­cept of racial schemas and vis­cos­ity to bet­ter under­stand these differences.

Read the entire paper here.

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Melungeon DNA Study Reveals Ancestry, Upsets ‘A Whole Lot Of People’

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, New Media, Tri-Racial Isolates, United States on 2012-05-25 16:44Z by Steven

Melungeon DNA Study Reveals Ancestry, Upsets ‘A Whole Lot Of People’

The Associated Press

Travis Loller

Jack Goins poses with a photo dated to have been taken in 1898 of his step-great-great grandfather George Washington Goins, who died in 1817, left, and great-great grandmother, Susan Minor-Goins who died in 1813 at the Hawkins County Archives Project building Wednesday, May 23, 2012 in Rogersville, Tenn. Goins is of Melungeon descent and has researched Melungeon history for around 40 years. A new DNA study in the Journal of Genetic Genealogy found that the families historically called Melungeons are the offspring of sub-Saharan African men and white women of northern or central European origin. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — For years, varied and sometimes wild claims have been made about the origins of a group of dark-skinned Appalachian residents once known derisively as the Melungeons. Some speculated they were descended from Portuguese explorers, or perhaps from Turkish slaves or Gypsies.

Now a new DNA study in the Journal of Genetic Genealogy attempts to separate truth from oral tradition and wishful thinking. The study found the truth to be somewhat less exotic: Genetic evidence shows that the families historically called Melungeons are the offspring of sub-Saharan African men and white women of northern or central European origin.

And that report, which was published in April in the peer-reviewed journal, doesn’t sit comfortably with some people who claim Melungeon ancestry.

“There were a whole lot of people upset by this study,” lead researcher Roberta Estes said. “They just knew they were Portuguese, or Native American.”…

…In recent decades, interest in the origin of the Melungeons has risen dramatically with advances both in DNA research and in the advent of Internet resources that allow individuals to trace their ancestry without digging through dusty archives.

G. Reginald Daniel, a sociologist at the University of California-Santa Barbara who’s spent more than 30 years examining multiracial people in the U.S. and wasn’t part of this research, said the study is more evidence that race-mixing in the U.S. isn’t a new phenomenon.

“All of us are multiracial,” he said. “It is recapturing a more authentic U.S. history.”

Estes and her fellow researchers theorize that the various Melungeon lines may have sprung from the unions of black and white indentured servants living in Virginia in the mid-1600s, before slavery…

Read the entire story here.

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Kept in, kept out: the Formation of Racial Identity in Brazil, 1930-1937

Posted in Brazil, Canada, Caribbean/Latin America, Dissertations, History, Media Archive, Social Science on 2012-05-25 02:30Z by Steven

Kept in, kept out: the Formation of Racial Identity in Brazil, 1930-1937

Simon Fraser University
November 1996
95 pages

Veronica Armstrong

Thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in the Latin American Studies Program

This thesis examines the roles of historian Gilberto Freyre and the Sao Paulo black press in the formation of racial identity in Brazil in Casa Grande e Senzala. published in 1933, Freyre presented a hypothesis of Brazilian national identity based on positive interpretations of slavery and miscegenation. His emphasis on racial harmony met with the approval of Get√ļlio Vargas, a president intent on the unification of Brazilian society. With Vargas’ backing, racial democracy became Brazilian national identity. Supporters included the black press which welcomed an idea that brought blacks into definitions of Brazilianness. Yet, blacks were embracing an interpretation of Brazilian identity that would replace a growing black racial awareness. Reasons for the undermining of black racial consciousness and the enshrining of racial democracy as Brazilian national identity emerge in an overview of shifts occurring during the first decades of the twentieth century.¬† The forces of mass immigration, negative evaluations of Brazil by scientific racism, and the nation-building politics of Vargas affected the elite minority and the poverty-stricken majority of Brazilians, but in differing ways. For while economic stability and national pride were the goals of the former, research suggests that survival was the paramount aim of the latter. Addressing the needs of both groups, the adoption of racial democracy as national ideology in the late 1930s maintained elite privilege, defused the potential of racial unrest, and promised social mobility to the masses.

Benefits to the largely-black masses, however, had strings attached. Social mobility depended on their acting “white” and becoming “white” through miscegenation. In the face of desperate poverty, blacks had few options and assimilation seemed a way to move beyond their low socio-economic status. Furthermore, contrasts with American segregation convinced black writers that battling discrimination had to be secondary to the economic survival of their community. The thesis concludes by seeking to explain the paradox of a society characterised by many foreigners and most Brazilians as a racial paradise from the 1930s to the 1970s even though Brazilian reality evinces gross inequality between the small Europeanised elite and the large black and mixed-race underclass.


  • Approval
  • Abstract
  • Acknowledgments
  • Preface
  • Introduction Kept in, Kept out: The Question of Brazilianness and Black Solidarity 1930-1937
    • The search for national identity
    • Brazilianness vs. Blackness
  • Chapter 1. Ideology and Identity.
    • The dawning of a new era of national thought
    • A historic moment
    • Whitening
    • A New Era
  • Chapter 2. Race
    • Miscegenation and Racial Terminology
    • Racial Democracy: Theory and Revision
  • Chapter 3. The Making of a Cultural Hero
    • Freyre: the child and the man
    • Freye’s “Old Social Order”
    • Casa Grande e Senzala
    • Freyre, the Intellectual
    • Freyre, Father of National Identity
  • Chapter 4. The Politics of Identity
    • The Black Press in Brazil
    • The Meaning of Language
    • From the mulato to the black press
    • The Black Press: an alternative path
    • Assimilation vs. segregation
    • A Frente Negra
  • Chapter 5. Only we, the Negros of Brazil, know what it is to feel colour prejudice
    • AVoz da Ra√ßa
  • Conclusion: We are Brazilian
    • Intellectuals and Ideology
    • Searching for identity
  • Epilogue
  • Bibliography

Read the entire thesis here.

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