Skip to Content. Happening Michigan Happening Michigan. Find amazing things to do: Close. Sponsors No results. Search Results Events No results. Advanced Search. These distinct political strategies, Alberto argues, were nonetheless part of black thinkers' ongoing attempts to make dominant ideologies of racial harmony meaningful in light of evolving local, national, and international politics and discourse. Terms of Inclusion tells a new history of the role of people of color in shaping and contesting the racialized contours of citizenship in twentieth-century Brazil.
About the Author Paulina L. Alberto is assistant professor of history, Spanish, and Portuguese at the University of Michigan. For more information about Paulina L. Alberto, visit the Author Page. As sociologist Edward Telles argues, greater race mixture and fluid race relations are not of much consolation to the majority of Brazil's nonwhites, who are more than three times as likely as whites to be poor or illiterate, and who earn, on average, half as much as their white counterparts.
It was not until after the military coup of that black thinkers definitively abandoned the hopeful tone of earlier years in favor of open attacks on racial democracy as a tool of ideological domination. As in earlier years, their choice of political strategies responded in part to currents of thought coming from abroad. Leftist youth movements from Paris to Prague, the fight for civil rights in the United States, and African liberation struggles provided inspiration to a new generation of university-educated Brazilians of color who joined Brazil's growing black movement.
Successive military governments in the s and s transformed the idea of racial democracy into an empty phrase, or worse, a smokescreen that imperfectly hid the state's repression of politics built around public claims to blackness. It was in this particularly dark moment of national politics, when ideas of racial inclusiveness appeared no longer to provide a workable common ground and when new ideas of racial and political self-determination beckoned, that black thinkers and activists took the oppositional ideological stance for which they are best known today.
As in earlier decades, Abdias do Nascimento was at the forefront of these transformations. In he traveled to Lagos, Nigeria, to protest what he saw as the complete disjuncture between the images of racial harmony his government attempted to project abroad and the censorship of meaningful discussions of race that had, by the late s, forced Nascimento and other outspoken thinkers like him into exile.
The official publication on Brazil's participation in the festival celebrated the nation's peaceful incorporation of African traits and peoples, which the delegation displayed primarily through cultural manifestations like samba music or Afro-Brazilian religions. Nascimento denounced Brazil as a country just as plagued by racial divisions as the United States and South Africa—the nations that, for much of the century, had served as foils for proclamations of Brazil's progressive race relations.
Terms of Inclusion: Black Intellectuals in Twentieth-Century Brazil - North Carolina Scholarship
Brazil, according to Nascimento, was a nation internally colonized, in which whites control the means of the dissemination of information; the educational apparatus; they formulate the concepts, the weapons, and the values of the country. With symbolic weapons like discourses of racial and cultural harmony, Nascimento implied, white elites concealed a much uglier reality.
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- Black Intellectuals in Twentieth-Century Brazil.
The reality of Afro-Brazilians involves bearing a discrimination so effective that, even [in regions] where they make up the majority of the population, they exist as economic, cultural, and political minorities. This reality persisted because Brazil's much-celebrated racial mixture, and its official embrace of African cultural traits, had achieved its unstated objective of. Nascimento's high-profile attack hit its mark. The Brazilian Embassy is confident that no Nigerian will be fooled [by Nascimento's allegations], since Brazil is known throughout the world, and described by thousands of political and social scientists, as a country capable of building a multiracial society, where million people of different ancestries stand as a living lesson for other countries in which such a feat has not, until now, been possible.
In two hundred years, no one has yet heard speak of racial problems or conflicts in Brazil. Brazil presents, in this respect, its great contribution to the world, as the most genuine, spontaneous, and significant example for any country truly interested in learning to practice racial tolerance. In the s Nascimento himself had declared Brazil a lesson to other multiracial societies. If he had changed his mind by the late s, it was because at that historical moment, racial democracy no longer embodied a collective aspiration.
It had become a preemptive, nonnegotiable declaration about Brazilian reality, intended to muzzle those who contemplated disturbing the alleged silence of two hundred years. In the s Nascimento and other activists successfully framed the discussion about Brazil's racial ideologies around the question explored in his position paper: Was racial democracy—as it related to relations between blacks and whites—myth or reality?
For Nascimento, the question was purely rhetorical. By pointing to the reality of discrimination Brazilians of color suffered in social, economic, and cultural terms, Nascimento intended to demonstrate beyond doubt that Brazilian ideologies of racial mixture and inclusiveness were debilitating myths. From the s through the s, scholars from Brazil and especially the United States joined Nascimento in the attempt to discredit and dismantle the idea of Brazil's racial democracy.
Their work documented pervasive racial inequality and discrimination in a variety of social settings not so dissimilar, they noted, from the situation in the United States and argued that dominant ideas of racial mixture and harmony hindered the development of a strong racial consciousness and effective race-based movements among Brazilians of African descent. Yet beginning in the s, a group of scholars most of them based in Brazil objected that revisionist works implicitly or explicitly held Brazil to a standard derived from the experience of the United States, where collective identities and social movements based on blackness underwrote a powerful and visible civil rights movement.
Instead, they argued, both Brazil's racial ideologies and the kinds of political responses they incited reflected a local understanding of race that must be approached on its own terms. In response, other scholars criticized them for overly idealizing Brazilian race relations, or for portraying Brazilians of color who adopt black identities as helpless victims of imperialist standards of racial consciousness.
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, a new crop of scholarship is answering Nascimento's question of whether racial democracy is myth or reality in a slightly different way, claiming that it is both. When the issue of the purported absence of race and racism in Brazil is framed narrowly as a choice between reality and myth, there can be no doubt that racial democracy is, in strict terms, an untruth.
Yet there is evidently much more to the myth than this. First, as scholars of Brazil and other Latin American nations have shown, there is a material and social base to the myth. Ideas of racial harmony, scholars have begun to argue, are and have been a myth in a broader anthropological sense—a discourse that guided discussions of what it meant to be a Brazilian and shaped individual and collective choices in ways that often appeared to advance that ideal.
This explains their great power, and their persistence even today in the minds of white and nonwhite Brazilians alike. In many parts of Latin America, where national laws theoretically ensured the equality and full citizenship rights of people of color but allowed discrimination and disdain in practice, politically active people of color frequently identified the symbolic dimensions of citizenship—such as ideologies of racial harmony—as crucial tools in the struggle for full legal, social, and political rights.
They used dominant ideas of racial inclusiveness to place an African racial or cultural heritage at the center of images of the Brazilian nation and to assert their own belonging as African-descended Brazilians within it. As this book shows, however, Nascimento and his colleagues were no less impassioned critics of racism in their midcentury endorsement of a racially harmonious ideal than they were in denouncing its hypocrisy a quarter of a century later.
Their changing position with respect to dominant ideologies does not betray a contradiction in their thought or political sympathies, nor does it suggest an awakening to a higher level of racial consciousness.
Terms of Inclusion
Rather, it reveals the different strategies black thinkers and activists adopted to demand full belonging in the nation at different historical moments. Nascimento's personal transformation is emblematic of the broader changes in black thought and politics over the course of the twentieth century, as the possibilities for inclusion and equality appeared to flow, crest, and then recede. These three cities were the sites of important, at times nationally visible, race-based movements. Certainly, black intellectual discourses in all three cities converged in important respects.
All represented Brazil as racially mixed, and none advocated a separatist politics. They all shared the aim of identifying strongly with an African racial heritage blackness , an African cultural heritage, and in some cases, a combination of both. They all believed in the legitimacy of and need for autonomous black political, cultural, and intellectual organizations. Yet they also diverged profoundly in the kind of mixture they imagined should characterize the Brazilian nation overall.
This book opens by telling the story of how a group of upwardly mobile men of color in that city came to see themselves, over the course of the first decades of the twentieth century, as negro thinkers or intellectuals, active on behalf of their race. It charts the emergence of a black press in that city, a source that provides the documentary backbone for this book.
watch Most did not construct the two races as different culturally but only socially and politically. This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue? Upload Sign In Join.
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Home Books Society. Save For Later. Create a List. Summary In this history of black thought and racial activism in twentieth-century Brazil, Paulina Alberto demonstrates that black intellectuals, and not just elite white Brazilians, shaped discourses about race relations and the cultural and political terms of inclusion in their modern nation. Read on the Scribd mobile app Download the free Scribd mobile app to read anytime, anywhere.