Theses defended

States in denial: Anti-Black Racism, Law and Policy in Brazil and Peru

Luana Xavier Pinto Coelho

Public Defence date
October 23, 2023
Doctoral Programme
Human Rights in Contemporary Societies
Silvia Rodríguez Maeso e Thula Pires
This thesis aimed to unravel the regimes of denial of racism persistent in Brazil and Peru. By looking at the institutionality, I examine the many ways racism can be simultaneously recognized in official discourse and supposedly combated through policies and legislation, and perpetuated through structures, practices, performances and knowledge. Racism, as historically rooted in colonialism and racial enslavement, is a long-term process that created races as ontological differences, reified by institutional practice, normalization and regulation. I start with the assumption that the legacy of racial enslavement still works to draw the boundaries of humanity, placing Black subjectivity as precarious within the institutions of the Racial State. Therefore, the analysis is attentive to official discourse - the control of language, the permitted and prohibited vocabulary and/or behavior - in contrast to the social claims by Black social movements and the experiences of Black people within State institutionality. Two approaches guided the research objectives and questions: i) The racial rule and the search for justice within the Justice System; and ii) Claims in the cracks: (im)possibilities of antiracist struggle within the Racial State. The first approach focuses on law and the struggle against racism, combining research methods of storytelling with the critical discourse analysis of the documents available in two legal cases. In Peru, I investigated the case of Azucena Algendones, the only conviction under the crime of discrimination on racial grounds. In Brazil, I analyzed the constitutional class action ADPF 635 PSB vs Rio de Janeiro State, the so-called ADPF das favelas (Slums ADPF), being a paradigmatic case where petitioners placed Black genocide and institutional racism at the center of the complaint. The case studies showed the role of the legal regime in securing the racial order. In the second approach, I relate Brazil and Peru to broader debates on racism and antiracism, more specifically, I focused on public policies and legal debates developed to either guarantee specific rights for Black people, or to fight racism. The analysis included processes of policymaking and implementation by the Directorate for Policies for Afro-Peruvian Population, DAF, within the Ministry of Culture of Peru (2009-2020); and the policies developed within the National Secretariat for Policies for the Promotion of Racial Equality, SEPPIR (2003-2016) in Brazil. The analysis of the country's narratives and official discourse included a multi-scale approach, with one case study of the regional human rights system of the Organization of the American States, in order to exam the role of Peru and Brazil in the debates for the construction of the Inter-American Convention Against Racism, Racial Discriminations and Related Intolerance (2005-2013). The analysis of in-depth interviews with various participants in those processes, together with the critical analysis of documents, policies and legislation enable the understanding of how the Racial State adapts to different claims for rights without necessarily changing its structure. The various sources brought to the investigation revealed how the ideological control of the institutions, the constant performance of race, the functioning of the white narcissistic pact and, especially, the denial of race, all sustain the perpetuation of racism.

Keywords: anti-Black racism; antiracism; rights; Racial State; legacy of racial enslavement