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Whiter Shades of Pale: “Coloring In” Machado de Assis and Race in Contemporary Brazil

From: Latin American Research Review
Volume 48, Number 3, 2013
pp. 3-24 | 10.1353/lar.2013.0046

Abstract

Abstract:

Debates surrounding race in Brazil have become increasingly fraught in recent years as the once hegemonic concept of racial democracy (democracia racial) continues to be subject to an ever more agnostic scrutiny. Parallel to these debates, and yet ultimately inseparable from them, is the question of what it is to be “white.” In this interdisciplinary paper, we argue that whiteness has become increasingly established in Brazilian public discourse as a naturalized category. Seeking a fresh perspective on what we perceive to have become a sterile debate, we examine Machado de Assis and his work to illustrate how assumptions surrounding his short story “Pai contra mãe,” and indeed comments on the author’s very body, reveal the extent to which whiteness has come to be seen as nonnegotiable and fixed. Placing a close reading of Machado’s text at the heart of the article, we explain its implications for the scholarly debates now unfolding in Brazil concerning the construction of whiteness. The article then develops an anthropological reading of whiteness by pointing to the inherent differences between perspectives of race as a process and perspectives of race as a fixed and naturalized given.

Resumo:

Debates sobre a questão racial no Brasil têm se tornado cada vez mais intensos recentemente, tendo em vista que o conceito de democracia racial tem sido crescentemente questionado. Paralelamente, mas ainda relevante para estes debates, encontra-se a questão do que significa ser branco no país. Neste artigo interdisciplinar, argumentamos que a idéia de “branquitude” tem sido gradativamente naturalizada a pelo discurso público brasileiro, e procuramos uma perspectiva pouco explorada no que consideramos um debate tornado estéril: examinamos Machado de Assis e seu trabalho para ilustrar como pressuposições a respeito de seu conto “Pai contra Mãe”, assim como comentários sobre o corpo mesmo do autor, revelam o quanto o conceito de “branquitude” passou a ser considerado fixo e não negociável. Tendo uma leitura minuciosa do conto de Machado como centro deste artigo, explicamos as conseqüências de nossa leitura para os debates acadêmicos que agora surgem no Brasil no que diz respeito à construção do conceito de “branquitude”. Este artigo, então, desenvolve um estudo sobre a idéia de “branquitude”, apontando as diferenças inerentes entre as perspectivas de ‘raça’ como um processo e “raça” como um dado fixo e naturalizado.



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