UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Confused categories, situational races, authenticity and the implementation of affirmative action : how young Brazilians manage the boundaries of racial identification de Oliveira, Beatriz Arcoverde


Brazil’s vision of race has been changing. In contrast with its former tendency to avoid static racial identifications and discussions of race, the country is pushing toward clearer racial definitions in order to institute racially targeted programs, such as racial quotas for Non-Whites in public universities. Using in-depth interviews from 19 students who entered university through racial quotas, this paper explores how these students envision fixed categories for themselves, how they deal with these categories in different situations, and what they think the implications of these shifts in racial understanding will be. The study shows that the racial categories proposed in legislation often do not represent the way students see themselves; indeed, they may not feel that racial categorization is something natural to their existence before applying for university. Respondents often feel discomfort dealing with the idea of categorization, as well as with the meaning of each category, and as a result they sometimes appropriate and redefine the categories. They speak of being reminded of their racialized bodies when contrasted or compared with others or their environment, and they demonstrate that race is a very flexible concept in their minds, varying in different situations. As well, their perceptions of race implicate ideas about social class and even personal aesthetics that are easily mutable. In trying to come to terms with the idea of race and how to bound it to something they can understand and grasp, students come to dispute the authenticity of racial claims. These disputes over how someone’s race is authentic may provide a space in which new meanings of race and racial categories can be created.

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada