Research context

In a global context of persistent racism and racial inequality, the Cultures of Anti-Racism in Latin America (CARLA) project explores the role of the arts in challenging racism and investigates the sociality, practices and discourses of contemporary cultural producers working in the arts who focus on issues of racism and anti-racism in Argentina, Brazil and Colombia.

Why the arts?

The arts play a crucial role in anti-racist movements, because they have the ability to mobilise emotions and this makes them well suited to engage with racism’s emotional logic. While social policies addressing socio-economic conditions are vital to correcting racial inequalities, they may fail to address the visceral emotions that racial difference produces in a racially hierarchical society. In the present moment of simultaneous open denial of racism, persistence of racial inequalities, and resurgence of far-right movements, analyzing the artistic interventions against affective dimensions of racism becomes particularly relevant. Our research seeks to map how the artists, their practices and their products produce effects in society that contribute to the struggle against racism.

Why Latin America?

The region has a long history in which marked racial inequality and powerful but often veiled racist attitudes have existed alongside “post-raciality” – by which we mean the tendency to deny or minimise the significance of racism and racial inequality, invoking a colour-blind universalism, and a tendency to belittle anti-racism as divisive, unfair and unpatriotic. This paradoxical co-existence has become characteristic of other areas of the world, in the wake of post-World War II trends that made “race” politically toxic and encouraged the avoidance of the issue of racism, while racial inequalities remained and even grew. The post-racial tendency to belittle anti-racism as “going too far” and being divisive has grown markedly in recent years. We think that the way struggles against racism in Latin America address this long-standing co-existence can hold lessons for anti-racism more widely. For example, the post-racial claim that increased inter-racial mixture indicates decreasing racism is belied by the fact that many Latin American countries have been majority mestizo (mixed-race) societies for over two centuries, without this having solved the problem of racial inequality and racism.

Anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism

A notable feature of the project is that it encompasses anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism in a region where practices and attitudes prejudicial to Indigenous people are often not labelled as racism. Recently, however, as the repression of Indigenous rights movements has become more intense, the term racism is becoming increasingly popular in Indigenous struggles, highlighting the structural dimensions of Indigenous disadvantage.