702.7 A comparative perspective on the identification of minorities by governments in the Americas

Saturday, August 4, 2012: 1:30 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Victor ARMONY , Sociology, University of Quebec at Montreal, Montreal, QC, Canada
The basic challenges faced by public institutions in recognizing and accommodating the identities of minority groups are now common to all countries in the Americas, but obviously their expression take different forms in different contexts. Demography and history are critical, but so are national imaginaries, political dynamics, and cultural patterns. The “Other” that needs to be named by the state – in order to be protected, integrated or separated – becomes a key aspect of policy-making and public debate: complex and diverse issues such as immigration and naturalization reform, the application of antidiscrimination norms, the implementation and assessment of affirmative action, curriculum guidelines for education, language use and bilingualism, religious freedom and secularism, etc. require facing the question of “who are them?” This paper will focus on the ways in which several countries in the Americas seek to identify the “Other” through a very particular institutional process: the construction of census categories. This seemingly straightforward administrative task is actually reflective of deeply entrenched notions of nationality and ethnicity. “Race” in the United States, “Visible Minority” in Canada, “Color” in Brazil, as well as language, ancestry, culture, etc. are some of the traits that are used to identify, classify, and quantify “otherness” in the Americas, a continent originally defined by ideals of racial/ethnic fusion and mestizaje (United States’ “Melting Pot”, Mexico’s “Cosmic Race”, Brazil’s “Racial Democracy”, Argentina’s “Race Crucible”, etc.) It is particularly telling to examine the evolving nature of this tool of state management of diversity in North and Latin America in the last few years, as we can observe certain common trends – probably resulting from the unifying standards of multiculturalism and human rights – and also several diverging approaches to diversity.