In This Review

Racial Politics in Contemporary Brazil
Racial Politics in Contemporary Brazil
Edited by Michael Hanchard
Duke University Press, 1999, 224 pp

A fine array of essays on Afro-Brazilian politics and social movements. All the authors, who include scholars as well as activists, agree that Brazil's racial inequality and its consequences cannot be reduced by monocausal explanations, and they are cautious about applying U.S. perspectives to Brazil's own racial dynamics. Yet they also recognize that the United States' growing Latino population means that large segments of the U.S. population no longer fit easily into white and black categories. By the same token, racial realities in Brazil can now be placed in a more comparative and global framework that can heighten racial consciousness. Historian Richard Graham sheds light on current debates by pointing to Brazil's historical experience, showing that most Afro-Brazilians were free before abolition but remained excluded from political power -- a heritage that continued long after slavery had ended. Hanchard looks at the similarities between Brazil and other multiracial societies in Latin America, while other authors examine residential segregation, income inequality between black and white women, the role of civil rights and police violence against Afro-Brazilians, and the recurrent tensions among Afro-Brazilians over identity and political strategy. A nuanced introduction to the tensions, struggles, and promises of Afro-Brazilian life in contemporary Brazil.