Favelas, Townships, and the Postracial

Friday, 20 July 2018: 17:45
Oral Presentation
Sérgio H. ROCHA FRANCO, University of Barcelona, Spain
My aim with this paper is to engage with the notion of the postracial informed by two urban settings discernible by their relationship with race issues: Rio de Janeiro’s favelas and Johannesburg’s townships. The post-racial discourse became visible in the U.S. in the context of the presidential election of Barack Obama in 2008. The notion has been shaping public policies and rendering debates around race outdated. Even if the recent post-racial rhetoric has only barely echoed in Brazil and South Africa, both countries have bent comparable understandings – albeit differently configured –. Despite the existence of alternative views that do take racial discrimination and racism into account in both countries, Brazil and South Africa share, in their own ways, the project of a society where the perception of race is somehow eliminated. In fact, the idea that Brazil is a ‘racial democracy’ dates back to the first half of the twentieth century, what perhaps makes it the utmost example that by merely avoiding racial categories we do not create a society free from racism. In South Africa, Nelson Mandela’s election in the mid-1990s and the move away from apartheid’s oppressive racial regime propelled a new national self-understanding, that one of the ‘rainbow nation.’ Based on my fieldworks in Rio’s favelas and Joburg’s townships between 2013 and 2015, I put these two discourses in relation to the experiences of favelas’ and townships’ inhabitants in order to signpost the significant discrepancy between postracial rhetoric and racialized everyday life in marginalized urban areas.