Race, With or Without Color? Reconciling Brazilian Historiography

Gail D. Triner

Abstract


The diversity of the population of Brazil reflects its long history with slavery and as a recipient of emigrants from all over the world. Individuals forged aspects of their own identities by melding their (and their ancestors') origins with the realities of their experiences in Brazil. As with other countries that are composed of peoples of different origins, Brazilians have expended much effort in constructing their racial components as one aspect of their quest to define what it means to be "Brazilian." The historiography interpreting this process of constructing race in order to construct national identity is a large one. Despite the volume of research, curious incongruities remain. This essay focuses on the incongruity in the idea of race as it has developed with respect to Brazilians of African descent as compared to other peoples who came to be identified as non-white. The purposes for this exploration are to raise questions about "race" in Brazil and to suggest the Brazilian experience as a target for research on the broader question of the mutability of racial categorization.

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