This is the most comprehensive and up-to-date book on the increasingly important and controversial subject of race relations in Brazil. North American scholars of race relations frequently turn to Brazil for comparisons, since its history has many key similarities to that of the United States. Brazilians have commonly compared themselves with North Americans, and have traditionally argued that race relations in Brazil are far more harmonious because the country encourages race mixture rather than formal or informal segregation.
More recently, however, scholars have challenged this national myth, seeking to show that race relations are characterized by exclusion, not inclusion, and that fair-skinned Brazilians continue to be privileged and hold a disproportionate share of wealth and power.
In this sociological and demographic study, Edward Telles seeks to understand the reality of race in Brazil and how well it squares with these traditional and revisionist views of race relations. He shows that both schools have it partly right--that there is far more miscegenation in Brazil than in the United States--but that exclusion remains a serious problem. He blends his demographic analysis with ethnographic fieldwork, history, and political theory to try to "understand" the enigma of Brazilian race relations--how inclusiveness can coexist with exclusiveness.
The book also seeks to understand some of the political pathologies of buying too readily into unexamined ideas about race relations. In the end, Telles contends, the traditional myth that Brazil had harmonious race relations compared with the United States encouraged the government to do almost nothing to address its shortcomings.
Drawing from personal archives of and interviews with participants in the Movimento Negro of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Hanchard presents a wealth of empirical evidence about Afro-Brazilian militants, comparing their effectiveness with their counterparts in sub-Saharan Africa, the United States, and the Caribbean in the post-World War II period. He analyzes, in comprehensive detail, the extreme difficulties experienced by Afro-Brazilian activists in identifying and redressing racially specific patterns of violation and discrimination. Hanchard argues that the Afro-American struggle to subvert dominant cultural forms and practices carries the danger of being subsumed by the contradictions that these dominant forms produce.
With essays devoted to theories of racial domination, comparative global racisms, and transnational white identity, the geographical reach of the volume is significant and broad. Dalton Conley writes on “How I Learned to Be White.” Allan Bérubé discusses the intersection of gay identity and whiteness, and Mab Segrest describes the spiritual price white people pay for living in a system of white supremacy. Other pieces examine the utility of whiteness as a critical term for social analysis and contextualize different attempts at antiracist activism. In a razor-sharp introduction, the editors not only raise provocative questions about the intellectual, social, and political goals of those interested in the study of whiteness but assess several of the topic’s major recurrent themes: the visibility of whiteness (or the lack thereof); the “emptiness” of whiteness as a category of identification; and conceptions of whiteness as a structural privilege, a harbinger of violence, or an institutionalization of European imperialism.
Contributors. William Aal, Allan Bérubé, Birgit Brander Rasmussen, Dalton Conley, Troy Duster, Ruth Frankenberg, John Hartigan Jr., Eric Klinenberg, Eric Lott, Irene J. Nexica, Michael Omi, Jasbir Kaur Puar, Mab Segrest, Vron Ware, Howard Winant, Matt Wray
The first group of essays in The Comparative Imagination summarizes and evaluates the cross-national comparative history written in the past fifty years. These essays pay particular attention to comparative work on slavery and race relations, frontiers, nation-building and the growth of modern welfare states, and class and gender relations. The second group of essays represents some of Fredrickson's own explorations into the cross-cultural study of race and racism. Included are new essays covering such topics as the theoretical and cross-cultural meaning of racism, the problem of race in liberal thought, and the complex relationship between racism and state-based nationalism. The third group contains Fredrickson's recent work on anti-racist and black liberation movements in the United States and South Africa, especially in the period since World War II.
In addition, Fredrickson's provocative introduction breaks significant new intellectual ground, outlining a justification for the methods of comparative history in light of such contemporary intellectual trends as the revival of narrative history and the predominance of postmodern thought.