Sunday, April 19, 2015

Tiffany D. Joseph's "Race on the Move"

Tiffany D. Joseph is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Affiliated Faculty of Latin American and Caribbean Studies at Stony Brook University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Race on the Move: Brazilian Migrants and the Global Reconstruction of Race, and reported the following:
Race on the Move takes readers on a journey from Brazil to the United States and back to explore how migration between each country is transforming Brazilian race relations. Brazil was once considered a racial paradise with its large multiracial population and absence of overtly discriminatory laws while the United States has a prolonged history of overt social exclusion aimed at nonwhites. However, with increasing Latino and multiracial populations in the United States, the use of quotas to reduce racial inequality in Brazil, and the movement of people between the two countries, contemporary race relations in each place are beginning to resemble the other. Using interviews conducted with residents of Governador Valadares (GV), Brazil’s largest immigrant-sending city to the U.S., I reveal how the exchange of racial ideals occurred among of these individuals and can potentially lead to a remaking of race in immigrant-sending communities.

Page 99 of Race on the Move demonstrates the extent to which changing one’s geographical context can influence his or her understanding of race as it relates to skin color. Specifically, this page discusses how GV return migrants classified their skin tones after returning from the United States and recognized that their skin tones were lighter compared to individuals who did not migrate from the tropical sunny climate of GV, which darkens skin tone. Returnees attributed the change to the colder and less sunny weather they encountered in the northeastern U.S. In sharing their conceptions, these return migrants constantly invoked the U.S. as a frame of reference to reinterpret the relevance of skin of color in Brazil post-migration.

The rest of the book also shows how return migrants use a similar process for readapting to race – particularly through negotiating classification, stratification, and discrimination – in Brazil. I argue that Brazil-U.S.-Brazil migration facilitates the development of a transnational racial optic, which alters how migrants “see” race in both countries by juxtaposing racial conceptions from each country. During migration, these individuals developed an understanding of race in the U.S. by incorporating Brazilian racial norms. An inverse process happened after these migrants returned to Brazil through which their experiences with race in the U.S. informed their post-migration perceptions of race in Brazil.

My concept of the transnational racial optic and using migration to compare race in the U.S. and Brazil is novel. Although there have been countless studies exploring micro and macro level differences in race relations in each country, Race on the Move is the first to consider how migration between both countries can influence racial understandings. Individuals on the move transport racial ideals with them which in turn can alter the places to which they migrate and the communities from which they come.
Learn more about the book and author at Tiffany D. Joseph's website.

--Marshal Zeringue