President Lula and the impossibility of a Brazilian whiteness

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Abstract

This chapter examines the construction of a racialised Brazilian national identity and highlights ways in which the dominance of whiteness may be limited. Taking as a starting point former President Lula’s apportioning of blame for the global economic crisis on ‘white people with blue eyes,’ I demonstrate how despite overwhelming economic, social, and political privileges, Brazilians who are perceived to be white are also cast outside the imagery of ‘the Brazilian.’ Lula clearly used ‘white people with blue eyes’ as a geopolitical metaphor for Europe and North America, and I suggest that he used such racial terminology because for a Brazilian audience the notion that ‘white people with blue eyes’ are foreign is implicit. Due to racial discourses that construct the Brazilian subject, his style made perfect sense, as he is talking about national racial types rather than ontological individuals. He is talking about a white, blue eyed, Global North, and a poor, black/indigenous Global South, and he knows that the Brazilian people will instinctively understand where Brazil fits within this. Drawing upon fifteen months of ethnographic fieldwork in the city of Florianópolis in the South of Brazil which focused on the lived experience of whiteness of self-identified white women from the middle-classes, I will argue that cracks appear in the carapace of privilege of whiteness when we interrogate the discursive construction of the nation, cracks which then become evident within social and cultural practices of whiteness. This creates ruptures that I will argue offer insights into the potential for limiting the dominant power of whiteness in Brazil.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationImages of Whiteness
EditorsClarissa Behar, Anastasia Chung
PublisherBrill
Chapter14
Pages159–168
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781848882225
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013

Keywords

  • Brazilian whiteness
  • Brazilian national identity
  • anthropology
  • middle-classes
  • gender
  • sexuality

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