Race and Multiraciality in Brazil and the United States: Converging Paths? [Review: Johnson]

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2011-04-22 02:32Z by Steven

Race and Multiraciality in Brazil and the United States: Converging Paths? [Review: Johnson]

American Anthropologist
Volume 110, Issue 1 (March 2008)
pp. 79–80
ISSN 0002-7294; online ISSN 1548-1433
DOI: 10.1111/j.1548-1433.2008.00013.x

Amanda Walker Johnson, Assistant Professor of Anthropology
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Race and Multiraciality in Brazil and the United States: Converging Paths? G. Reginald Daniel. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006. 365 pp.

Globalization and Race: Transformations in the Cultural Production of Blackness. Kamari Maxine Clarke and Deborah A. Thomas, eds. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006. 407 pp.

These two books discuss the racial formations of blackness from the foundations of early capitalism and modernist nation-state formation through contemporary transformations. Both caution against the silencing of race, particularly the dangers of “colorblindness” in political engagement and in theorizations of globalization, but both books also forge critiques of race essentialism. Whereas Globalization and Race explores geopolitics and notions of “diaspora,” Race and Multiraciality explores lineage and multiraciality. The methodological and theoretical approaches are what most separate these texts, as Globalization and Race centers on ethnographies and anthropological theories whereas Race and Multiraciality combines analysis of secondary historical and demographic data and sociological theories…

Race and Multiraciality compares racial formations in the United States and Brazil, particularly the dimensions of blackness and multiraciality. Daniel argues that the ending of legal segregation in the United States—coupled with challenges to the “binary racial project” or white–black paradigm by multiracial movements—and the disruption of the notion of “racial democracy” and the “ternary racial project” (or white–multiracial–black paradigm) in Brazil by the movements for African Brazilian recognition and racial equality have sent the United States and Brazil on converging paths. Daniel juxtaposes the “Latin Americanization” (p. 259) of U.S. racial politics in the context of emerging recognition of multiraciality and desires for colorblind “racial democracy” with the “Anglo Americanization” (p. 285) of Brazilian racial politics. This is done in the context of increasing dichotomization of negro–branco (black–white) and the interpellation of multiracial people into a unified and “race-d”—versus “colored” as in the colonial and census terms pretos and pardo—African Brazilian identity. Daniel seeks to disrupt the notion that multiraciality is inherently problematic as well as to expose the untenability of colorblindness, particularly in its neoliberal form.

Daniel’s historicization of trajectories of Eurocentrism that underline both “whitening” in Brazil and antimiscegenation in the United States—including the “paranoia about invisible blackness” (p. 37) and the granting of privilege in terms of behavioral and phenotypic proximity to Europeanness that pervaded both nation’s racial projects—seems to suggest that the processes of racial formation in the two nations have converged, or at least intersected, at prior historical moments to the contemporary era. Although he explores the complexity of “Latin” American colonization models in Louisiana and the Southwest as they confront the “Anglo” models of the “North and Upper South,” he overlooks the mythification of the U.S. post–Civil War “North” as itself a variant of a “racial democracy.” In my view, the linearity of his model or metaphor of “converging paths” undermines his attempts to problematize U.S. and Brazilian racial projects. Additionally, although Daniel critiques the “binary racial project” in the United States, he also tends to reify it, at times conflating multiraciality with black and white biraciality (see pp. 173, 295). The racialization of Asian Americans in the United States and Brazil disappears in both his theorization of the “binary” and “ternary” models of race and also his discussions of multiracial movements…

Read or purchase the review here.

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