Mestizaje and Law Making in Indigenous Identity Formation in Northeastern Brazil: “After the Conflict Came the History”

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Brazil, Law, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation on 2011-01-25 03:40Z by Steven

Mestizaje and Law Making in Indigenous Identity Formation in Northeastern Brazil: “After the Conflict Came the History”

American Anthropologist
Volume 106, Issue 4 (December 2004)
pages 663–674
DOI: 10.1525/aa.2004.106.4.663

Jan Hoffman French, Assistant Professor of Anthropology
University of Richmond

In this article, I explore issues of authenticity, legal discourse, and local requirements of belonging by considering the recent surge of indigenous recognitions in northeastern Brazil. I investigate how race and ethnicity are implicated in the recognition process in Brazil on the basis of an analysis of a successful struggle for indigenous identity and access to land by a group of mixed-race, visibly, African-descended rural workers. I propose that the debate over mestizaje (ethnoracial and cultural mixing) in the Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America can be reconfigured and clarified by broadening it to include such Brazilian experiences. I argue that the interaction between two processes—law making and indigenous identity formation—is crucial to understanding how the notion of “mixed heritage” is both reinforced and disentangled. As such, this article is an illustration of the role of legal discourse in the constitution of indigenous identities and it introduces northeastern Brazil into the global discussion of law, indigenous rights, and claims to citizenship.

Read or purchase the article here.

Tags: , , ,

Legalizing Identities: Becoming Black or Indian in Brazil’s Northeast

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Law, Media Archive, Monographs, Social Science on 2009-11-17 05:40Z by Steven

Legalizing Identities: Becoming Black or Indian in Brazil’s Northeast

University of North Carolina Press
June 2009
272 pages
6.125 x 9.25, 18 illus., 2 maps, notes, bibl., index
Cloth ISBN  978-0-8078-3292-9
Paper ISBN  978-0-8078-5951-3

Jan Hoffman French, Assistant Professor of Anthropology
University of Richmond

Anthropologists widely agree that identities—even ethnic and racial ones—are socially constructed. Less understood are the processes by which social identities are conceived and developed. Legalizing Identities shows how law can successfully serve as the impetus for the transformation of cultural practices and collective identity. Through ethnographic, historical, and legal analysis of successful claims to land by two neighboring black communities in the backlands of northeastern Brazil, Jan Hoffman French demonstrates how these two communities have come to distinguish themselves from each other while revising and retelling their histories and present-day stories.

French argues that the invocation of laws by these related communities led to the emergence of two different identities: one indigenous (XocĂł Indian) and the other quilombo (descendants of a fugitive African slave community). With the help of the Catholic Church, government officials, lawyers, anthropologists, and activists, each community won government recognition and land rights, and displaced elite landowners. This was accomplished even though anthropologists called upon to assess the validity of their claims recognized that their identities were “constructed.” The positive outcome of their claims demonstrates that authenticity is not a prerequisite for identity. French draws from this insight a more sweeping conclusion that, far from being evidence of inauthenticity, processes of construction form the basis of all identities and may have important consequences for social justice.

Tags: , , ,