Accounting for Change in Diverse Societies

Building Pluralism Through Affirmative Action
in Brazil: The Case of Education

Publication Date: March 2017

Daniela Ikawa

Daniela Ikawa is an Adjunct Professor of Politics and Instructor at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights, located at Columbia University, New York. She has worked at Conectas Human Rights (Sao Paulo) and PILnet (New York) and taught at the Central European University (Budapest) and PUC (Sao Paulo). She was the managing co-editor of Sur-International Journal on Human Rights and has published over twenty books and articles on human rights in the United States and Brazil. Her current research focuses on the connection between particularly situated individuals and a contextualized theory of rights.

After independence, a widespread notion took route that Brazilians comprised a single “cosmic” race produced by significant mixing between indigenous peoples, former African slaves and European settlers. In practice, this belief ignored the very real discrimination experienced by Afro-Brazilians, which only in recent years has the state attempted to address through affirmative action policies. What factors account for this changed conversation around diversity in Brazil, and how have the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion changed? As “race” has become more central to debates over national identity, how have these debates affected inter-ethnic trust? What broader lessons can be gleaned from the malleability of Brazil’s self-identity and about the limits of such changed conversations for the lives of citizens?

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