This is a collection of papers written at different periods, to which have been added a bibliography and an introduction presenting a general conceptualization of the race issue and an overview of such studies in Brazil. The organization of the volume and the lack of editing result in frequent overlappings between chapters and even literal duplications of paragraphs and footnotes. Since the author is also careful about theoretical consistency and clarity, the discussion is sometimes repetitious. Otherwise this is a valuable introduction to the problem, fully comprehending its varied manifestations.
Basically Ianni views the issue as part of the pervasive and inherent characteristics of a class society, where race ideologies, including the myth of Brazilian “racial democracy,” mask the nature of the relationships from which group prejudices originate and take their meaning. To make this idea fully clear, he repeatedly calls the reader’s attention to a few basic statements, hoping to establish a firm basis for further analysis.
The specific contribution of the book is its focus on aspects not often considered together and never so consistently. Some of these are the situation of blacks and mulattoes in southern Brazil, the meaning of the abolitionist movement and of the nineteenth-century immigration policy, and the racial stereotypes about the Poles in the southern state of Paraná. Above all, the book explicitly calls attention to the multiple phases of the interethnic relations in the country. Going beyond the problems of blacks and mulattoes and beyond that of prejudice, it studies the integration of immigrants (Germans, Italians, Poles, Japanese) and the subjugation and even literal destruction of Indian and mixed-blood groups.
Developed out of a search for identity by the society itself, Brazilian studies have passed through stages of involvement with relatively limited topics—such as the alleged inferiority of the mestizo, the various acculturative mechanisms, the question of a “tropical civilization,” and the operation of race prejudices—toward a comprehensive conception of the subject. Crucial in this respect are recent studies on the proletarization of the ex-slave and his descendants and on the contact between agencies and institutions of the national society and native groups along the geographical fronts of economic expansion.
Evincing a broad concern with man’s condition during the expansion of western capitalism, Ianni has debunked fallacies and outlined the conditions for movement toward a democratic society. By setting not only blacks and mulattoes but also the Poles in Paraná against the history of the developing labor market in that area, Ianni has been able to trace their course toward a greater share in a society far from democratic.