Affirmative Action in the Land of Racial Democracy: Analysis and Comparison

April 28, 2008 - 3:00 pm

João Feres Júnior, Instituto Universitário de Pesquisas do Rio de Janeiro

J. Michael Turner, Hunter College, CUNY

Kenneth Erickson, Hunter College and The Graduate Center, CUNY

Affirmative action policies are a novelty in Brazil. Starting in 2003, an ever growing number of public universities, both state and federal, began implementing affirmative action programs in their admissions process, mostly in the form of quota reservations for blacks and applicants coming from the public school system. This has prompted a heated debate in the media and in Brazilian society at large pitching affirmative action advocates against its vigorous opponents who, among other things, accuse it of being an American import that will disrupt the harmonious race relations that have made Brazil’s sociability and national character so distinctive. In this presentation Prof. Feres will first provide an assessment of the current status and development of such policies throughout the country’s university system. He will analyze the main arguments used in public debate and finally he will draw some comparisons between the development of the affirmative action debate in Brazil and in the US.

About the Speaker:
João Feres Júnior is a political science professor at IUPERJ, a major Brazilian graduate studies and research institute. His doctoral dissertation, entitled “A history of the concept of Latin America in the US: misrecognition and social scientific discourse,” won the prize of best political science manuscript from Brazil’s National Social Sciences Graduate Studies Association and was published in 2005 in Portuguese. In 2008 the book will also appear in French (Editions L’Harmattan) and Spanish (Editorial Universidad de Cantabria) translation and in the following year in English.

Since his return to Brazil in 2003, Feres Júnior has been studying affirmative action policies with a special focus on the arguments that are used in public and legal debate to justify or criticize them. For a number of years he was co-coordinator of the Affirmative Action Studies Network, an international association of researchers working with the topic. During this time, he co-organized two international conferences and several other smaller academic events to discuss affirmative action policies in higher education. Now he is the head of the Multidisciplinary Study Group on Affirmative Action, which congregates researchers doing work on affirmative action policies in Brazil, South Africa, and India.