Southern Racial Dilemmas: Brazilian Race Relations and Economic Development in the 1950s

Juan Sebastián Gil-Riaño

Columbia University

Wednesday, January 27, 2021 6:00 pm EST

Online Event

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This talk examines the development of race relations research in Brazil and the Global South. In the 1940s, Brazil appeared as an exemplar of racial harmony to race relations researchers from Chicago like Donald Pierson and Robert Park. Yet after UNESCO sponsored cycle of studies from the early 1950s, Brazilian researchers, notably the historical sociologist Florestan Fernandes, discarded this thesis and instead began to document and describe Brazil's unique racial dilemma. Echoing Gunner Myrdal’s American Dilemma (1944), Fernandes described the existence of a distinctly Brazilian racial ideology in which whites clung to the "prejudice of having no prejudice." Yet instead of looking for the psychological causes of this distinctly Brazilian racial ideology, Fernandes described it as a product of a historical process of economic development or "bourgeois revolution" that began with the abolition of slavery at the end of the 19th century yet systematically excluded Afro-Brazilians from participating in the nascent industrial economy of the 1950s. In contrast to mainstream race relations of the North Atlantic which embraced individualist approaches rooted in psychology, Brazilian race relations research from the 1950s thus favored systemic and structural approaches to understanding racism.
Event Speaker:
Sebastián Gil-Riaño, Assistant Professor of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania.