In This Review

The Spectacle of Races: Scientists, Institutions, and the Race Question in Brazil, 1870-1930
The Spectacle of Races: Scientists, Institutions, and the Race Question in Brazil, 1870-1930
By Lilia Schwarcz
Hill and Wang, 1999, 358 pp.

A fascinating discussion of how Brazilian philosophers, politicians, and scientists dealt with miscegenation -- a fundamental reality of Brazil at a time when the notion of mixed-race society horrified European travelers. Seeking to whiten the population, Brazilian scientists embraced Social Darwinist ideas about innate racial differences despite their fears about the consequences of applying European ideas on race to the complex Brazilian context. Schwarcz shows how these European prejudices became a means for conservatives to preserve traditional social hierarchies. She also examines the role of ethnographic museums, the pioneering Brazilian Historical and Geographic Institute founded in 1839, and the prestigious law and medical schools that trained the elites "chosen" to direct Brazil's destiny. A rich and important study that skillfully elucidates some of the hidden recesses of Brazilian national identity.