WHITER SHADES OF PALE: “COLORING IN” MACHADO DE ASSIS AND RACE IN CONTEMPORARY BRAZIL
Debates surrounding race in Brazil have become increasingly fraught in recent years as the once hegemonic concept of racial democracy (democracia racial) continues to be subject to an ever more agnostic scrutiny. Parallel to these debates, and yet ultimately inseparable from them, is the question of what it is to be “white.” This article argues that whiteness has become increasingly established in Brazilian public discourse as a naturalized category. Seeking a fresh perspective on what we perceive to have become a sterile debate, the article examines Machado de Assis and his work to illustrate how assumptions surrounding his short story “Pai contra mãe,” and indeed comments on the author’s very body, reveal the extent to which whiteness has come to be seen as non-negotiable and fixed. Premised on a close reading of Machado’s text, the article explains the Pai contra mãe's implications for the scholarly debates now unfolding in Brazil concerning the construction of whiteness. The article then develops an anthropological reading of whiteness by pointing to the inherent differences between perspectives of race as a process and perspectives of race as a fixed and naturalized given.