Rethinking race, racism, identity and ideology in Latin America

Rethinking race, racism, identity and ideology in Latin America

Ethnic and Racial Studies
Volume 36,  Issue 10, 2013 (Special Issue: Rethinking Race, Racism, Identity, and Ideology in Latin America)
pages 1485-1489
DOI: 10.1080/01419870.2013.808357

Tanya Golash-Boza, Associate Professor of Sociology
University of California, Merced

Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Professor of Sociology
Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

This special issue explores ideas of race and racial hierarchy in Latin America in the twenty-first century. By examining the intersection between racialization and processes of identity formation, political struggle, as well as intimate social and economic relations, these essays question how and to what extent traditional racial ideologies continue to hold true. In so doing, we consider the implications of such ideologies for anti-racism struggles. This collection of articles provides a unique insight into the everyday lived experiences of racism, how racial inequalities are reproduced, and the rise of ethnic-based social movements in Latin America. The qualitative nature of the projects allows the authors to advance our understanding of how racial ideologies operate on the ground level. The geographic diversity of the articles – focusing on Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Costa Rica and Cuba – enables a greater understanding of the distinct ways that racial ideologies play out across different settings.

Race and national ideologies in the Americas are inextricable. The ideas and practices of race were essential to the conquest and colonization of the Americas (Smedley 2007). As European colonizers and settlers shaped the western hemisphere into nations, distinct racial ideologies emerged alongside national ideologies. This special issue of Ethnic and Racial Studies provides us with new insights into how race and national ideologies continue to shift in Latin America, in the context of a globalizing world.

During the nineteenth century, Latin American countries began to break away from their colonial past and form independent states. Intellectual and political elites across Latin America preoccupied themselves with building national unity (Knight 1990). In these nation-building projects, national leaders had to contend with European scholars who denounced their racial degeneracy due to extensive racial mixing (Stepan 1991). Latin Americans could not simply ignore European arguments about racial inferiority as these arguments were central to scientific and medical discourses. Thus, they chose to counter European intellectuals’ claims about their inferiority and argue that racial mixture was not only beneficial, it was the hallmark of Latin American nations. During the twentieth century, ideologies of whitening, mestizaje (racial and cultural mixture), blackness, indigeneity and racial democracy informed national ideologies across Latin America. Instead of countering ideas of white supremacy espoused by European intellectuals, Latin American intellectuals and political leaders embraced white supremacy and worked to facilitate and justify a system of pervasive race and colour stratification whereby darker-skinned people, typically with more notable indigenous and African features, occupy the lower rungs of the racial ladder, and those of primarily European descent are at the top…

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