Transnational Articulations of Law and Inequality in Latin America: A Legal Genealogy of Inequality

Friday, July 18, 2014: 6:18 PM
Room: F204
Oral Presentation
Manuel GONGORA-MERA , Free University of Berlin, Berlin, Germany
Until quite recently, Latin American countries widely assumed that legal discrimination against ethno-racial groups was a practice that took place elsewhere but not in the region. Somehow, the articulations between law and racial inequality remained successfully covered for almost two centuries. By tracing how such articulations could be hidden for so long, this article changes the focus on domestic legislation and offers a legal transnational approach for the analysis of the multi-scale intercrossing of racial discourses through law. It aims to elucidate the chronological and epistemic concurrence between different legal projects of racial stratification operating in different world areas and to expose the crucial role that law played in the racialization of society under colonial rule, and the continuities of such role in contemporary Latin America. For this purpose, I introduce SÚrgio Costa’s definition of inequality regime. This concept serves to depict transnational interconnectedness between legal texts and to place norms in the center of the analysis of racial inequalities. The concept is also useful for the study of long periods of time, because it allows a focus on regime change (i.e. major shifts in the racial conceptions and legal standards and their effects in terms of ethno-racial inequalities). The first part of the paper introduces the legal transnational approach applied to conceptualize ‘race’ as transregional inequality and the central role of law in this regard. The second part presents some articulations between law and ‘race’ in Latin America as conditioning ethno-racial discourses, social hierarchies and inequalities during European rule and the most significant continuities of such articulations after independence and in subsequent regime transitions.