Latin American Anti-Racism in a 'Post-Racial' Age

Project summary

This project started in January 2017 and formally ended in November 2019, although publications are ongoing.

The research aimed to investigate anti-racism in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico; to contribute to conceptualising and addressing problems of racism and racial inequality in the region. As well as to use the Latin America context to provide lessons of wider relevance to anti-racism.

We propose that Latin American countries present new opportunities for thinking about anti-racism in the supposedly 'post-racial' world of Europe and the United States, where anti-racism has apparently gone into 'crisis' and emerged as often insipid and hard-to-defend multiculturalism. Influential currents in Europe and the United States think that paying attention to race simply exacerbates racism. Meanwhile, racial inequality and racism continue.

We explored how Latin Americans involved in anti-racism address key problems for anti-racism in Latin America and increasingly for other regions. First, how to practice anti-racism when most people are mixed, may deny the importance of race and racism and may themselves be the victims and the perpetrators of racism. Second, how to practice anti-racism when 'culture' seems to be the dominant discourse for talking about difference, but when physical differences remain a powerful but often unacknowledged basis for discrimination. Third, how to create effective anti-racist action when race and class coincide and make it easy to deny that race and racism are important factors. Fourth, how to make sure anti-racist action addresses gender difference effectively. Fifth, how to pursue anti-racism when it is often claimed that little overt racist violence is evidence of racial tolerance.

Our project worked with a wide variety of organisations in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico to explore how anti-racism is pursued in state and non-state circles, in legislation and the media, and in a variety of campaigns and projects. We aim to strengthen anti-racist practice in Latin America by feeding back our findings and by helping build networks. We hired four post-doctoral researchers, who worked in each country supported by a local academic co-investigator.

The project was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council of the UK (ref. ES/N012747/1).

The project team

  • Project Director: Dr Mónica Moreno Figueroa, University of Cambridge.  
  • Project Co-director: Prof Peter Wade, University of Manchester.  
  • Research Associate: Dr Krisna Ruette-Orihuela, previously based at the Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Cientificas, did fieldwork for the project in Colombia. She then became a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Loughborough.
  • Research Associate: Dr Luciane Rocha, previously at Universidade Federal de Rio de Janeiro, carried out fieldwork for the project in Brazil. She then got a job as an Assistant Professor at Kennesaw State University.
  • Research Associate: Dr Gisela Carlos Fregoso, previously at the Universidad Veracruzana, did fieldwork in Mexico as part of the University of Cambridge team. She then got a job as an Assistant Professor at the University of Guadalajara.
  • Research Associate: Dr María Moreno Parra, previously at Miami University, did fieldwork in Ecuador as part of the University of Cambridge team. She then got a teaching job at FLACSO-Ecuador.
  • International Co-investigator for Colombia: Dr. Mara Viveros Vigoya, Universidad National de Colombia. 
  • International Co-investigator for Brazil: Prof Antonio Sérgio Guimarães, CEBRAP (Emeritus of Universidade de São Paulo). 
  • International Co-investigator for Mexico: Dr Juan Carlos Martínez, Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS, Oaxaca branch). 
  • International Co-investigator for Ecuador: Fernando García, Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales, FLACSO Ecuador.