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National Colors: Race, Nation, and the Census in Latin America

November 9, 2009 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Monday Seminar:

Mara Loveman

Resident Fellow (2009-2010)

Sociology, UW-Madison


Why do some states classify their populations by race in censuses while other states do not? What purpose have race queries on census forms served historically, and what purposes do they serve today? In this talk, Professor Loveman will discuss her research on the practice and politics of racial classification in Latin American censuses from the colonial period to the present day. Her research takes national censuses as a site to investigate how ideas about modern nationhood and ideas about racial difference became intertwined and shaped state-building projects in Latin America, with lasting consequences. Drawing on examples of published statistical tables from nineteenth and early twentieth-century censuses, this talk will highlight the active role of central statistics agencies in advancing the idea that “national progress” in the region should be defined in racial terms: to wit, the whiter the population, the better.


Mara Loveman is Associate Professor of Sociology (UW-Madison) and a Resident Fellow at the Institute for Research in the Humanities. She is a comparative and historical sociologist whose recent publications include “How Puerto Rico Became White: Boundary Dynamics and Intercensus Racial Reclassification” (American Sociological Review, 2007) and “The Race to Progress: Census-Taking and Nation-Making in Brazil (1870-1920)” (Hispanic American Historical Review, 2009). Her current research examines the political, scientific, and legal construction of racial boundaries in the Americas in comparative and historical perspective.


November 9, 2009
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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University Club, Room 212
432 East Campus Mall
Madison, Wisconsin 53703 United States