Racial Silences and Twentieth-Century Transitions: Mexico, Brazil, Bolivia, the Caribbean, and the International Remaking of Race

AHA Session 46
Conference on Latin American History 13
Friday, January 7, 2011: 9:30 AM-11:30 AM
Clarendon Room (Marriott Boston Copley Place)
Brodwyn Fischer, Northwestern University
The Audience

Session Abstract

The claim that ancestry or biology dictated collective destiny was a mainstay of public debate in the Americas as elsewhere at the start of the twentieth century. By mid-century, however, public affirmation of racial determinism was rare.  This panel explores how and why this happened, posing the following questions: Did racialized concepts and perceptions also shift, transform, or even disappear in this era?  Did presumptions about the boundaries and implications of group belonging change as fast as norms for polite (or politic) debate?  Was racial silence always the product of racial silencing—aimed at masking the persistence of hierarchy or exclusions?  Or was it sometimes part of an anti-racist strategy—aimed at undermining barriers, that is, rather than shielding them? This panel examines case studies ranging from the consolidation of Mexican indigenismo to urban housing polices in Brazil to anti-semitism in Bolivia to debates over who and how to rule a post-colonial Caribbean, to suggest that race in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s echoed loudly even when silent.

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