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RACIAL DEMOCRACY AND INTERMARRIAGE IN BRAZIL AND THE UNITED STATES Jack A. Draper III University of Missouri “We see a blurring of the old lines.” –Michael Rosenfeld, Regional-Americanist sociologist “The maintenance of interracial barriers and the reproduction of inequalities are assured [. . .]” –José Luis Petruccelli, Brazilianist sociologist Introduction: A Tripartite Scholarly Geography of U.S. and Brazilian Race Relations Various scholars have emphasized that exogamy is a key indicator of the assimilation of racial and ethnic minorities in a given society (Silva and Hasenbalg 1992, 17–18). Increased marriage across racial/ethnic lines is generally understood to indicate a higher degree of intimacy between members of the respective racial/ethnic groups, since marriage is traditionally considered to represent the “maximum degree of material and affective intimacy” to which individuals can aspire (Pinto 1998 [1953], 176). In keeping with this insight, this article traces developments in conceptions of race relations through an analysis of contemporary academic discourses on interracial marriage in Brazil and the United States. I categorize these discourses into three major geographical-ideological groups, namely, regional-Americanist, cosmopolitan-Americanist and Brazilianist studies of race relations. The regional-Americanist strand of scholarship on interracial marriage is implicitly isolationist, virtually devoid of any international comparative perspective with which to contextualize the conclusions made about exogamy rates in the United States in recent decades. Cosmopolitan-Americanist scholarship, on the other hand, is far more cognizant of racial discourses outside of the U.S. national context, and therefore , with its comparative perspective on race relations, is able to provide a more measured assessment of perceived progress in US racial assimilation in relation to that achieved in other countries. Finally, Brazilianist scholarship on interracial marriage inherits the international, comparative tradition firmly established by anthropologist Gilberto Freyre since his earliest writings (Freyre 1922). While this category of scholarship thus has much in common with cosmopolitan-Americanist scholarship on race relations , it has also inherited a post-Freyrean critical tradition since the 1950s (Pinto 1998 [1953]; Bastide and Fernandes 1959) that has established relatively strict criteria for determining the real extent of racial discrimination C  2011 Southeastern Council on Latin American Studies and Wiley Periodicals, Inc. 45 The Latin Americanist, September 2011 in Brazilian public as well as private life. Ultimately this study serves to emphasize the urgent need for an international contextual basis from which to qualify analyses of the growth in interracial marriage rates in the United States. My conclusions about the current status of regionalAmericanist scholarship suggest the impossibility of establishing an accurate sense of historical proportion from a purely national standpoint on trends in racial exogamy. A Comparative Historical Background on Race Relations Over the past century, Brazilianist scholars have often drawn comparisons between race relations in Brazil and the United States. Some North Americans, particularly African Americans, have likewise compared their own country’s racial situation with that of Brazil in the same time period (Hellwig 1992). The juxtaposition seems virtually inevitable since these countries are two giants of the New World with multiracial populations that interact and self-identify in distinct ways. As members of a Latin American nation within the sphere of influence of a nascent North American empire, Brazilian thinkers found it particularly important to relate and to distinguish their own culture from that of the hegemon to the north. The writings of anthropologist Gilberto Freyre on Brazil’s “social democracy” are exemplary in this regard and set the paradigm for what would later come to be known, beginning in the 1940s, as the ideology of racial democracy (Freyre 1940; Guimarães 2005). This ideology celebrating Brazil’s racial exceptionalism would become a semi-official, hegemonic narrative that helped to define the Brazilian nation for much of the twentieth century (Andrews 1996). One of the key features of Freyre’s social democracy concept and the resulting racial democracy ideology is the explicit comparison of Brazil’s putatively cordial race relations with Jim Crow segregation and racial conflict in the United States. Although African Americans were indeed looking south to Brazil with curiosity, larger national narratives about race in the United States were not similarly inflected by Brazil’s race relations. Both Brazil and the US were major players...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1557-203X
Print ISSN
1557-2021
Pages
pp. 45-66
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-25
Open Access
No
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