Frantz Fanon’s reception in Brazil

Posted in Biography, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations, Philosophy on 2012-07-05 20:10Z by Steven

Frantz Fanon’s reception in Brazil

Penser aujourd’hui à partir de Frantz Fanon, Actes du colloque Fanon (Symposium on Frantz Fanon)
Université Paris 7
February 2008

Antonio Sérgio Alfredo Guimarães, Professor of Sociology
University of São Paulo, Brazil

Frantz Fanon is a central figure in cultural, post-colonial and African-American studies, whether in the United States, Africa or Europe. We often speak about Fanonian studies, such is the volume of research that has been based on his work. My black Brazilian colleagues and students have the same admiration, respect and devotion for him as their black North American and African brothers. However, when I looked for material to write this paper, I was met with a conspicuous silence, both in cultural and academic journals which lasted all the way to the mid 1960s.

Although he had previously had a limited readership in Brazil, Fanon became known within cultural circles, as in other parts of the world, when revolutionary violence was the order of the day, championed by thinking revolutionary fighters such as Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Camilo Torres; or by black leaders such as Stokely Carmichael, Malcom X and Eldridge Cleaver; or Amilcar Cabral, Agostinho Neto, Kwame N’Krumah. However, after this phase, contrary to what occurred in other places, his thinking did not become the object of elucidating and critical reflection on the part of Brazilian universities and academics who were established in study centres, as was the case with other revolutionary thinkers.

In this paper, I will defend two theses. The first is that his lukewarm reception was due to a national and racial makeup totally opposed to racial conflicts, highly instilled within an intellectual middle class which was white and mixed race, yet racially colourless. That is, the Brazil of racial democracy. The second thesis explains the limited dissemination of Fanonian studies by the small number of black professors and researchers at Brazilian universities who focus on the formation of black identity or the affirmation of racially oppressed subjects as their area of study.

Fanon’s thinking came to Brazil much like all new ideas – in European books – and at a time when Marxism and existentialism competed for the limelight of the Brazilian cultural and political scene.

Read the entire paper here.

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Room for Debate: Brazil’s Racial Identity Challenge

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2012-03-30 17:09Z by Steven

Room for Debate: Brazil’s Racial Identity Challenge

The New York Times
2012-03-30

Jerry Dávila, Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor of Brazilian History
University of Illinois

Peter Fry, Anthropolgist

Melissa Nobles, Arthur and Ruth Sloan Professor of Political Science
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Micol Seigel, Associate Professor of African-American and African Diaspora Studies
Indiana University

Yvonne Maggie, Professor of Cultural Anthropology
Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Antonio Sérgio Alfredo Guimarães, Professor of Sociology
University of São Paulo, Brazil

João Jorge Santos Rodrigues, Lawyer and President
Olodum (cultural group that aims to combat racism in Brazil)

Marcelo Paixão, Professor of Economics and Sociology
Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

As Rio de Janeiro prepares to host the 2016 Olympics and celebrate its newfound economic prowess as a player on the world stage, the connection between poverty and racial discrimination in Brazil is coming under scrutiny. Would Brazil benefit from U.S.-style affirmative action to counter its history of slavery? What are the challenges of implementing such programs?

Note from Steven F. Riley: See also: Stanley R. Bailey, “Unmixing for Race Making in Brazil,” American Journal of Sociology, Volume 114, Number 3 (November 2008): 577–614.

What Brazil Does Well (Dávila)

In the United States and Brazil, Jim Crow’s shadow has yielded divergent understandings of the nature of racial inequality and the role of race-conscious policies. In the U.S., placing “separate but equal” in the rearview mirror feeds legal challenges to affirmative action.

But in Brazil, the distance from Jim Crow shapes a growing recognition that racial discrimination and inequality are not legacies and are not just the fruit of segregation. To the contrary, they have a stubbornly viral ability to reproduce and renew themselves…

…These Brazilian policies are not meant to redress legacies of racism: instead, they recognize and counteract ongoing inequalities. Brazil, in turn, has drawn a lesson from the U.S. history with affirmative action: policies that promote inclusion are insufficient without policies that reduce exclusion.

Race Is Too Hard to Identify (Fry)

Racial quotas in universities are polemical. For a start, they can hardly be called “U.S. style” since they would be unconstitutional in the United States. Furthermore, unlike the U.S., the majority of Brazilians do not classify themselves neatly into blacks and whites. In Brazil, therefore, eligibility for racial quotas is always a problem…

Quotas Are Working in Brazil (Nobles)

In 2004, when state and federal universities began implementing affirmative action policies, Brazil closed one chapter of its history and began another.

Brazil’s once dominant “myth of racial democracy,” made the contemplation, let alone implementation, of such policies impossible for most of the 20th century. Unlike the United States, Brazil’s post-slavery experience had not included deeply entrenched legal and social barriers. Nor had it included rigid racial identifications. Affirmative action policies were not needed, or so the reasoning went…

…Today, debate turns on arguments about merit and racial identity. Some hold that the quota system violates meritocracy. But basing university admissions solely on high-stakes standardized tests, which significantly advantage test preparation, seems a dubious way of determining merit. Others argue that Brazil’s system of racial classification is too fluid and ambiguous: the problem of “who is black?”…

Brazil Sets an Example to Follow (Seigel)

Affirmative action programs in Brazil are widespread and growing. Based on state legal victories beginning in 2000 and directed to expand further by the far-reaching federal Racial Equality Statute passed in 2010, all but three of Brazil’s 26 states now have reparative quota systems. The widespread objection that Brazilian racial categories were too fluid to define “black” for policy purposes has not panned out. Candidates define their racial identity themselves; apparently the disincentives to proclaiming black identity in a society still shot through with racist presumptions are enough to stave off the flood of sneaky white candidates who opponents claimed would jam the system. Plus, Brazilian affirmative action is not solely racial; it is class-based as well, and implemented in intelligent ways. In most states, quota candidates’ families must meet a salary limit, and an equal number of slots are set aside for children who have attended Brazil’s challenged public school system as for black students. Since most families poor enough to meet the income ceiling will have sent their kids to public schools, this means most students who meet the income requirement can apply, regardless of color…

Looking to the U.S. Has Been a Mistake (Maggie)

The history of racial relations in Brazil, which is completely different from the American case, leads me to believe that no, Brazil would not benefit from U.S.-style affirmative action.

In Brazil, there was no legislation dividing the population into “races,” nor prohibiting marriage between people of different “races,” in the post-abolition period; we’ve had no “one drop of blood” rule. The result is a national society based on the idea of mixture. U.S. affirmative action seeks to unite and make equal what had been separated by law. To implement this in Brazil, we would have to create legal identities based on the opposition between whites and blacks or African descendents.

Step in the Right Direction (Guimarães)

Brazil has already implemented some important affirmative action programs in higher education, and the balance is overall positive. Some 71 universities — with free tuition, linked to the federal system of higher education — as well as different state universities now have some kind of preferential system of entrance benefiting disadvantaged students (those coming from public high schools, those self-declared “pretos,” or blacks; “pardos,” or browns; “indigenous”; or those with low incomes).

The best thing is that those policies were taken one by one by different university boards trying to adapt the principles of social or racial justice to their regional reality. Available data on the school performance of those students show that they are doing pretty well and are not putting any kind of stress on the system. The real stress comes more from the huge expansion of slots than from the admission system.

Symbolically those policies are important in showing that being black (preto or pardo) in Brazil today is no longer a source of shame but rather one of pride. Descent from Africa is openly assumed and socially recognized. The policies also demonstrate that publicly financed universities must care for the quality of the education they offer without degrading the fairness of their admission when it becomes biased by class, race or color…

Read the entire debate here.

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The Brazilian system of racial classification

Posted in Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Social Science on 2012-01-25 17:00Z by Steven

The Brazilian system of racial classification

Ethnic and Racial Studies
Published Online: 2011-12-05
6 pages
DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2011.632022

Antonio Sérgio Alfredo Guimarães, Professor of Sociology
Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil

Michael Banton’s text belongs to the long tradition of European social sciences which rejects the conceptual use of the lerm ‘race’ in sociological analyses. His work is also linked to the school—this time a minority—that uses individualist and logico-analytic methodologies, largey shunning historical, structuralist or holistic analyses. The real novelty of his approach, though, resides in bringing the natural concept of ‘colour’ to the centre of sociological analyses of the kinds of social differentiation and hierarchization that arise from the encounters between distinct peoples and cultures.

However my comments in this short text will not address any of these aspects head on. Instead I shall concentrate on clarifying what seems to me to be the weak point of the empirical example used by Banton in his argument, namely, the Brazilian system of racial classification, which, according to the author, is based not on race but on colour, by which he means skin colour or tone.

To allow the reader to follow my comments, it is worth briefly recalling what we know about the Brazilian system of racial classification, a topic systematically studied by sociologists and anthropologists between the 1940s and 1970s (Frazier 1944; Pierson 1945; Hutchinson 1952; Wagley 1952; Zimmerman 1952; Azevedo 1953: Fernandes 1955; Bastide and Berghe 1957; Harris and Kottak 1963; Harris 1970; Sanjek 1971; Nogueira 1985), with the aim of deciphering its classifieatory principles. From 1872 onwards the Brazilian census classified the ‘colours’ of Brazilians on the basis of the theory that mestiços ‘revert’ or ‘regress’ to one of the ‘pure races’ involved in the mixture an ideology that shaped both common-sense and academic knowledge at the end of the nineteenth century. The 1872 census, for example, created four ‘colour groups': white, caboclo, black and brown (branco, caboclo (mixed…

Read or purchase the article here.

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Colour and Race in Brazil: from whitening to the search for Afrodescent

Posted in Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Papers/Presentations, Social Science on 2011-09-10 22:37Z by Steven

Colour and Race in Brazil: from whitening to the search for Afrodescent

Paper presented at XVII ISA World Congress of Sociology
Gothenburg, Sweden
July 2010
21 pages

Antonio Sérgio Alfredo Guimarães, Professor of Sociology
University of São Paulo

Two paradigmatic cases of the building process of post-slavery societies in the Americas were, without a doubt, Brazil and the United States. While the United States had an exceptional and singular development, the Brazilian case can be generalised, with certain caveats, to other countries of Central and South America and the Caribbean in terms of the incorporation of Afro-descendent and Amerindian populations into the free work regime, the formation of a class society, as well as the development of racial and national ideologies. Whereas in Brazil racial democracy was cultivated, segregation still presents a problem in the United States; whilst the former perpetuates pre-capitalist forms of exploitation and precarious employment, the latter provided for the formation of a modern black society, albeit separate from the rest of the nation; if in Brazil we have turned colour into the basic unit of a complicated symbolic system of status attribution, in the U.S. race was built into a descent status group.

In this article I aim to clarify the way in which Brazil has, since abolition, been developing a system of colour classification with regard to Afro-descendents. Not only do I intend to show how this system has developed through time, but how it is also shaped by the mobilization of the black population around the notion of race—as a group of solidarity and common experiences of subordination and discrimination. My strategy is to trace the terms “colour” and “race” and their meanings through time, as used or systemised into classifications by the state, social movements and social scientists. Certainly, this is a preliminary and incomplete study, but I hope that it can serve as a guide to future and more systematic investigations about specific periods, places and social agents…

Read the entire paper here.

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Race and Multiraciality in Brazil and the United States: Converging Paths? By G. Reginald Daniel. [Book Review]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2010-07-31 20:14Z by Steven

Race and Multiraciality in Brazil and the United States: Converging Paths? By G. Reginald Daniel. [Book Review]

Ethnic and Racial Studies
Volume 30, Number 6 (November 2007)
pages 1167-1181

Antonio Sérgio Alfredo Guimarães
Department of Sociology, University of Sao Paulo

In his recent comparative study G. Reginald Daniel looks at the convergence in race relations patterns between Brazil and the US with a reasonable amount of historical information extracted from an extensive literature, yet adds almost no empirical research. His narrative takes a descriptive, reading-notes-like mode as he passes over both countries’ history from colonial times to the present, following too closely different authors’ arguments. His metanarrative, the one that ties together his diverse sources, is a Gramscian-Marxist theory of hegemony and race formation borrowed mainly from Omi and Winant (1986), and Hanchard (1994)…

Read or purchase the article here.

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