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Sociology: Events


The Prism of Race: Politics and Ideology of Affirmative Action in Brazilian Higher Education

The Prism of Race: Politics and Ideology of Affirmative Action in Brazilian Higher Education
Speaker: Dr David Lehmann # University of Cambridge
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Introduced by
Date and Time
16th Jan 2019 11:00 - 16th Jan 2019 12:00
6th Floor Staff Room CMB

Starting in about 1995 a network of Brazilian academics known as the movimento negro,
campaigned for public universities to set aside a quota for black students. In 2012 the
Congress unanimously enacted a Law stipulating a quota of 50 per cent of all places on
undergraduate courses in federal universities to be reserved for students from state
schools, and within that 50 per cent half again for pretos, pardos e indigenas (black, brown
and indigenous students). Today all federal and most state universities have adopted this

This very summary version highlights some of the issues which brought bitter division to
Brazilian academia: what are the best ways of reducing racial inequality in general and in
education in a racially mixed society? how can the state allocate resources to a group who
are plainly racially disadvantaged without imposing an official procedure to allocate
individuals to racial or colour groups? To those should be added some unspoken questions:
What lies behind the words ‘public’ and ‘state’ when referring to education? How can a
relatively small number of people bring about such a momentous change in a higher
education system with 1.9 million students (not counting 4.6 million in private institutions).
What was the contribution of NGO support from outside Brazil?

David Lehmann is Emeritus Reader in Social Science at the University of Cambridge, where
he was Director of the Centre of Latin American Studies from 1990-1999. His research has
covered topics in the fields of development, religion, multiculturalism and affirmative action
in Chile, Ecuador, Mexico and Brazil. He has been a Visiting Professor at the Universities of
Brasilia and São Paulo, and at the State University of Rio de Janeiro. He recently edited The
Crisis of Multiculturalism in Latin America (2016) and this seminar will present The Prism of
Race: politics and ideology of Affirmative Action in Brazil (2018)

Abandoned building