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Renegotiating the Boundaries of Middle Class and Race: First-Generation Black College Graduates in Brazil and South Africa

Title
Renegotiating the Boundaries of Middle Class and Race: First-Generation Black College Graduates in Brazil and South Africa
Speaker(s)
Speaker: Professor Graziella Moraes Silva # Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva
Hosted by
Introduced by
Date and Time
18th Jan 2019 15:00 - 18th Jan 2019 17:00
Location
Seminar Room 1, Chrystal Macmillan Building
URL
http://www.san.ed.ac.uk/events/research_seminars/2018_2019/renegotiating_the_boundaries_of_middle_class_and_race_first-generation_black_college_graduates_in_brazil_and_south_africa

I analyze the changes and continuities in understandings about “middle class” and “race” in Brazil and South Africa, in light of their transformations from small and exclusive white spaces to racially and socioeconomically diverse spaces. I rely on in-depth interviews with first-generation college-graduate black respondents in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Cape Town, South Africa. I show that the growth of a black middle class in both countries was not accompanied by a sense of belonging to the middle class for members of these groups. This is revealed by perceptions of discrimination, which are salient in both contexts but operate in very different ways. In Brazil, black interviewees tend to experience more discrimination in public settings and in anonymous interactions. Once personal relationships are established, however, racial boundaries are less salient due to norms of cordiality in private life. In South Africa, in contrast, black interviewees perceive less discrimination in the public realm, but more in personal interactions within historically white-dominated environments. In both contexts, there is a growing awareness that the boundaries of the middle class are being redefined: in Brazil, the growth of the black middle class has strengthened the salience of racial boundaries within the middle class, while in South Africa, it has strengthened class boundaries within the groups historically identified as “Blacks.” I conclude with a presentation of preliminary results of a new research project on black students and the transformation of higher education and the new dilemmas of affirmative action policies in both countries.

Freshers 2013