‘Race’ in the context of Brazilian affirmative action policies

Brazil has a long history of debates on race and racism in relation to national identity – from ideologies of whitening through Gilberto Freyre’s praise of miscigenação to anti-racist critiques of the concept of racial democracy. After the end of the military dictatorship (1964-1985) – which had pursued a politics of (coercive) integration of all minorities into the ‘mestizo’ Brazilian nation –, the Brazilian state turned away from this strategy of assimilation. Instead, it started to pursue a politics of recognition that was more sensitive towards difference. One concrete outcome of this development was the introduction of university quotas for Afro-Brazilians at the beginning of the 2000s, followed by the introduction of such quotas for public procurement procedures in 2014.


By looking at these affirmative action policies, this PhD project asks how ‘race’ is being made relevant in the course of state action: How do institutional processes of knowledge production concerning racial categories take place and how is ‘race’ being performed and articulated in these practices? How is ‘race being established in administrative action? By addressing these questions, the project wants to shed light on processes of knowledge production in bureaucratic systems. In so doing, it contributes to a greater understanding of state action as well as to a more complex view of the seemingly coherent “seeing state”. Furthermore, the project aims at exploring parallels and fruitful complements between Science and Technology Studies and the anthropology of bureaucracy – and accordingly examines standards and standardization as central features of bureaucracies.


Supervision: Prof. Dr. Katharina Schramm

Berlin Southern Theory Lecture