Seeing Like Citizens: Unofficial Understandings of Official Racial Categories in a Brazilian University*

LUISA FARAH SCHWARTZMAN
2009 Journal of Latin American Studies  
This paper investigates how students at the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ), one of the first Brazilian universities to adopt race-based quotas for admissions, interpret racial categories used as eligibility criteria. Considering the perspectives of students is important to understand the workings of affirmative action policies because UERJ's quotas require applicants to classify themselves. Students' interpretations of those categories often diverge from the interpretations intended
more » ... retations intended by people who shaped the policy. Students' perspectives are formed by everyday experiences with categorisation and by their self-assessment as legitimate beneficiaries of quotas. In contrast, the policies were designed according to a new racial project, where black consciousness-raising and statistics played an important role. 2 As far as I know, all Brazilian institutions that have implemented affirmative action require self-classification. The University of Brasília has until recently 'verified ' eligibility by having students' photographs analysed by a committee, but students could still opt out of qualifying for quotas. 3 I borrow the term 'racial project ' from Howard Winant, ' Rethinking Race in Brazil ',
doi:10.1017/s0022216x09005550 fatcat:23vs5nh7hzdvniau3xrzj55sf4