Printer Friendly

Race and Sex in Latin America.

Race and Sex in Latin America. Peter Wade. London: Pluto Press, 2009. x + 310 pp. (US$ 29.95)

Race and Sex in Latin America is a major achievement. Peter Wade offers lucid analysis, fully engaging with a sophisticated bibliography that allows us to see the complex relationship between race and sex in Latin America. The book is clearly written and makes complex theories quite accessible. It successfully integrates queer and feminist analysis, making them central to his project, as it combines the contributions of psychoanalysis to those of social sciences. This book will be required reading for anyone working on these topics in Latin America and the Caribbean, and will work quite well in a variety of university classes. It is also very relevant for scholars working on colonial, postcolonial or race, sex and gender studies in other areas of the world.

In his "Acknowledgements," Wade explains the link between this book and some of his earlier works such as Blackness and Race Mixture (1993) and Race and Ethnicity in Latin America (1997), clarifying that the closest link is to the findings of a collaborative project that culminated in the edited volume Raza, etnicidady sexualidades: Ciudadama y multiculturalismo en America latina (2008). Throughout the text, Wade also references some of his other publications such as Music, Race and Nation (2000), Race, Nature and Culture (2002), and the edited volume Race, Ethnicity and Nation (2007). It is clear that he has spent a good part of his professional career grappling with these questions; Race and Sex in Latin America brings together and expands on many of his past insights.

In Chapter 1, Wade offers useful definitions of the key terms race, sex, and sexuality, highlighting his interest in seeing how these intersect or mutually constitute each other, and explaining the historical and social debates about the meanings of these terms. Regarding definitions of race, he states that he prefers "an historically inclusive approach that recognizes the historical continuities that underlie the variations" (p. 5). In relation to sex, he includes "anything pertaining to the fact of being sexed or having a sex and anything pertaining to the relationships between the sexes" (p. 7). He then summarizes the key problem which drives his book as: "in simple terms, why 'the question race always provoked the answer sex,' to use [Roger] Bastide's phrase, or more generally, why race and sex/gender seem to have what I have termed an 'elective affinity' for each other in systems of domination and hierarchy" (p. 12). Wade discusses this question in both theoretical and empirical terms in the rest of the book; the theoretical discussion occurs principally in Chapter 2, where he offers two theoretical models that center on power and desire. As he notes, scholars tend to favor one or other of these approaches, rarely bringing the two together. Here, Wade's discussion of the work of Michel Foucault, Frantz Fanon, Anne McClintock, Patricia Hill Collins, Kimberle Crenshaw, Judith Butler, Ann Stoler, Elizabeth Povinelli, Edward Said, and Homi Bhabha is particularly insightful.

The remaining four chapters examine these models and definitions, offering nuanced historical perspectives about the intersections of race and sex in Latin America. Chapter 3 focuses on colonial Latin America, analyzing sex as an instrument of racialized conquest, the building of a moral order, concepts of purity of blood and the sexual purity of women, mestizaje, and the ambivalence about the sexual and magical power of racially and sexually subaltern subjects. Chapter 4 focuses on the post-independence, nation-building period in the nineteenth century, with discussions of science and nation, mestizaje, honor, eugenics, social hygiene, masculinity, homosexuality, and sexualized primitivism. Chapter 5 focuses on the political economy of sex/race, including discussions of race, money, and sex; interracial sex and mestizaje; beauty and eroticism; and sex tourism and sex worker migration. As Wade notes, "relations in Latin America depend on a balance of racism and racial democracy... this balance depends to a great extent on the way race and sex articulate to create a mixed society in which both oppression and racial ambiguity and tolerance coexist" (p. 13). Chapter 6 focuses on the management of sexuality by the state and NGOs, including the regulation of sexuality, fertility, disease, and family life, and its impact on questions of citizenship. The chapter concludes with a discussion of Latinos in the United States and the way their mestizaje "is both challenged by and challenges the US racial landscape" (p. 14).

Wade's careful attention to matters of ambiguity and contradiction regarding race and sex in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States, particularly in the manifestation of oppression, prejudice, attraction, fascination, and public discourse, is extremely timely.

DOI: 10.1163/22134360-12340047

Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes

Department of American Culture, University of Michigan

Ann Arbor MI 48109, U.S.A.


Wade, Peter, 1993. Blackness and Race Mixture: The Dynamics of Racial Mixture in Colombia. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

--, 1997. Race and Ethnicity in Latin America. London: Pluto Press.

--, 2000. Music, Race and Nation: Musica Tropical in Colombia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

--, 2002. Race, Nature and Culture: An Anthropological Perspective. London: Pluto Press. Wade, Peter (ed.), 2007. Race, Ethnicity and Nation: Perspectives from Kinship and Genetics. Oxford: Berghahn Books.

Wade, Peter, Fernando Urrea Giraldo & Mara Viveros Vigoya (eds.), 2008. Raza, etnicidad y sexualidades: Ciudadanla y multiculturalismo en America latina. Bogota: Centro de Estudios Sociales (CES), Universidad Nacional de Colombia.
COPYRIGHT 2013 Brill Academic Publishers, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2013 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:La Fountain-Stokes, Lawrence
Publication:New West Indian Guide
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 22, 2013
Previous Article:Nan domi, le recit d'une initiation vodou.
Next Article:Radical Theory, Caribbean Reality: Race, Class and Social Domination.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters