The Color of CitizenshipRace, Modernity and Latin American / Hispanic Political Thought
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2012 by Oxford University Press, Inc. All rights reserved. Why is race a potent political phenomenon, when it is a superficial human characteristic, if it exists at all? The history of political philosophy has not dealt adequately with this question and we need new paradigms to answer it. The traditional European perspective on race tends to be a domination paradigm, for it generally sees non-European peoples as inferior. At the same time, the U.S. view of race, while a vast step forward in understanding the centrality of race to politics, citizenship, and the state, also has important limits. It helps us see the importance of the African American experience, but tends to lead toward a dualistic paradigm in which white-black relations form the core principle of race. We need to examine the tradition of Latin American political thought to move beyond these existing paradigms in a world of great ethnoracial diversity. This is because race has played a central role in the Latin American approaches to political theory. While many strands within it cannot be accepted for analytical or moral reasons, one strand can be traced that allows the reconceptualization of race as inherently mixed, unstable, fluid, and politically potent. I call this the synthetic paradigm of race, which emerges out of a close of study of four key thinkers in the Hispanic tradition: the Spanish friar Bartolom de Las Casas, the Venezuelan statesman Simn Bolvar, his compatriot the sociologist Laureano Vallenilla Lanz, and Jos Vasconcelos, the Mexican philosopher.
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