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146 | Revista Europea de Estudios Latinoamericanos y del Caribe 83, octubre de 2007

The Sorcery of Color, Identity, Race, and Gender in Brazil, by Elisa Larkin Nascimento. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2006. Written firstly as a doctoral thesis in Portuguese (O Sortilgio da Cor, 2002), The Sorcery of Color has been made available to a broader public with its publication in English. This has come at a critical moment marked by increasing polarization around affirmative action policies in the long-term fight for racial justice in Brazil. This process is occurring in a country where, throughout the entire twentieth century, the white elites who are responsible for forging the Brazilian nation as a symbolic community of interests have in every way denied the possibility of considering those racial distinctions which are overtly visible in the countrys socioeconomic structures as a ground for political action or even as a source of personal identity for concrete social subjects. The disclosure of the social construction of race, personally experienced by social agents, with its practical outcomes in the reproduction of a nationwide pattern of racial exclusion and violence (for example, as pointed out by Telles, 2004) has become the main national taboo. The mere mention of the words race or even worse racism is strongly disapproved of by Brazilian moral entrepreneurs, which include journalists, social scientists and artists. Thus, subjugated by the powers of persistent racial inequality and injustice, black subjects are not even allowed to think of themselves, or of Brazilian social structures, from a politically racialized perspective. A dense and virtually impenetrable wall of silence and misrecognition has been imposed upon black social actors. Black political organization as described in Nascimentos book has been considered a sign of anti-national feelings, of imported foreign (namely North American) issues and, at the very least, as something blatantly dangerous. The theme of danger, has been repeated by those moral entrepreneurs almost as a curse, and has followed every single black political manifestation throughout the last century. The assembly and mobilization of black people has been obstructed by every means. That is why it seems to be dangerous for national unity and risky for the black population itself to denounce the racial iniquities that have made Brazil what it is today. It is exactly by means of what Nascimento calls the sorcery of color that this achievement, the denial and criminalization of black mobilization, has been fulfilled. We may summarize the main arguments of the book in three axes: firstly, the historical construction of the ideological device of the sorcery of color or virtual whiteness (in doing so, the author follows the path opened by Brazilian black intellectuals such as Abdias do Nascimento and Alberto Guerreiro Ramos); secondly, the consideration of the role played by gender in these historical hierarchies, as well as in the core of black mobilization; and finally, the priority awarded to education in the black political agenda for Brazil. These axes interconnect with a vigorous criticism of leftist approaches to racial matters in Brazil, a topic of the greatest relevance to black politics all over the modern African diaspora (Robinson, 2000). The miscegenation ideology, found not only in Brazil, but in many other Latin American multi-racial countries such as Colombia and Venezuela (Wade 1996, Right 1993) has been scrutinized by the author in order to demonstrate how, in fact, this ideology takes for granted and actually endorses the hegemonic orien-

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tation of nation-building towards the progressive whitening of society. It implies the vigorous suppression of black or African cultural practices in Brazil. On the other hand, this whitening presupposes the physical disappearance of the black population. This idea implies the progressive extinction of the African stain after 350 years of extensive use of a slave workforce. And the white elites have taken concrete measures in this sense. One of the most remarkable was the promotion of massive European migration just after the abolition of slavery, since from this racialist perspective the black masses could not be accepted as a workforce capable of participating in the rising Brazilian industrialization. And the fundamental feature of it is that it was all carried out as state policy. For no modern country, from that perspective, could have been built with such a black and mixed-blood population. The reflection of these policies on Brazilian cultural and political life is obvious: great value is given to everything white, while everything associated with blacks, blackness or African traditions is either denied or folklorized. The concrete result of these processes was also the reproduction of a pattern of racial inequality throughout the twentieth century and the suppression of any possibility of visualizing or even representing race as something useful in understanding and fighting social injustice. A law of silence has been applied to racial relations in Brazil in such a way that merely to mention the word race was, and still is, a reason for accusing black activists and intellectuals of racism. This magical and paradoxical configuration is what Nascimento calls the sorcery of color. The author accurately points out the impressive role of gender relations in the reproduction of white supremacy in Brazil. To begin with, she shows how black women make up the most impoverished social sector in Brazil, earning average wages corresponding to about a quarter of those of white men. They are also underprivileged by the intersectionality of gender and race structures of discrimination and violence. Moreover, the burden of decades of racist and sexist representations is borne by black women. Black women today are still regarded as falling under basically two stereotypes according to the hegemonic point of view: that of the maid faithful and submissive, almost belonging to the family in a kind of intimate and sensual supremacy; and that of the sexual hyper-investment, in which they are seen as more accessible, having non-restricted bodies, and being open to sexual exploitation and violence. The book is explicitly devoted to making a huge theoretical and historical review of the position of black people in Brazil, as well as of their fights for justice and recognition, and in this it has been particularly successful. Placing herself on these crossroads, blessed by Esu, the author produces an intellectual position complimented by her political engagement, and makes a political statement by means of her intellectual criticism. This intellectual enterprise is of great importance at this moment when Brazil is undergoing unprecedented progressive polarization regarding the implementation of affirmative action policies. Some observers seem to picture this contention as a battle over the making of a strong, massive, and oppositional black identity in Brazil, which is encouraging real moral panic, right before our eyes. Osmundo Pinho Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP), So Paulo

148 | Revista Europea de Estudios Latinoamericanos y del Caribe 83, octubre de 2007 References Robinson, Cedric (2000) Black Marxism The Making of Black Radical Tradition. Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press. Telles, Edward (2004) Race in Another America: the Significance of Race in Brazil. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Wade, Peter (1993) Blackness and Race Mixture: the Dynamics of Racial Identity in Colombia. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Wright, Winthrop R. (1996) Caf con Leche. Race, Class, and National Image in Venezuela. Austin: University of Texas Press.

From Silver to Cocaine: Latin American Commodity Chains and the Building of the World Economy, 1500-2000, edited by Steven Topik, Carlos Marichal, and Zephyr Frank. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2006. This is a well-done, very appealing, and highly recommendable book for scholars interested in the economic history of Latin America or in global commodity chains. The book is composed of chapters written by different authors. All of them adopt a historical perspective, and analyse the emergence, prosperity and decadence of a variety of commodity chains that were the major drivers of the economic integration of Latin American countries into the world economy across different time periods (from silver coins in the sixteenth century to cocaine in the twentieth century). A number of insights may be drawn from the case studies under analysis. First of all, almost all the authors stress the role of political decisions in shaping the performance of commodity chains and the distribution of value between different agents. The attention devoted to historical and governance aspects is shared with the current global value chain approach, which basically analyses commodity chains from a political economy perspective. Some chapters also take insights from institutional economics by stressing the role of information flows between agents, access to business networks and to financial markets in control of the chain. The cases reveal a large diversity with regards to the governance structures and the relationship between agents in exporting and importing regions, and how this relationship has been shaped across time. For example, while the banana chain in Central America was largely dominated by a single North American company during many decades before the World War II, the Peruvian and Chilean states, as well as national capitalists, were indeed able to reap a considerable part of the interest generated in the nitrate and guano chains during the first decades of the twentieth century. Despite this diversity, a quite remarkable feature shared by all these chains with significant development implications is the extent to which benefits have been concentrated in a few economic agents, either national or foreign capitalists or (less often) the state. This has been concomitant with hard working conditions and in most cases with semi-exploitative working relations. It is therefore not surprising that many of these chains have been associated with social uprising (often accompanied by harsh repression). This includes, for example, tough conflicts in the Central American banana sector (linked to guerrilla movements and even coup dtats) and the origins of the Chilean labour movement in the nitrate provinces. Such combination of conditions is undoubtedly at the root of the fact that Latin America is the most unequal region in the world.