The Limits and Possibilities of Multiculturalism in Brazil
: Urban Quilombos and Indigenous Groups in the Colonial Present

  • Desiree Poets

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis explores the limits and possibilities of multiculturalism in Brazil through two urban indigenous groups and two urban Afro-descendant quilombo communities in three cities of Brazil’s southeast. These included Quilombo Sacopã and the Indigenous Association Aldeia Maracanã (AIAM) in Rio de Janeiro, Quilombo dos Luízes in Belo Horizonte, and the indigenous Pankararu students of the Pindorama Programme at a São Paulo university. This thesis is fieldwork-based, conducted for a total of 13 months between December 2013 and August 2016. It explores multiculturalism by asking ‘Who counts as ethnic, in this case specifically indigenous and quilombola?’ ‘What has it cost the four groups to count as ethnic?’ I contend that Brazil’s 1988 Constitution, which marked the turn to multiculturalism, contains important advances in indigenous and black rights that have been instrumental in the successes of the four groups. Nevertheless, these possibilities are entrenched in settler colonialism. The structures of authenticity, the filter defining who counts as ethnic, manage multiculturalism’s complicity with settler colonialism. Therefore, multiculturalism as it is currently structured in Brazil ultimately maintains the status quo, failing to pave the way to deeper change. Within this context, this thesis challenges what it means to talk about de-colonisation in Brazil and urges us to imagine more radical horizons.
Date of Award2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorLucy Taylor (Supervisor) & Berit Bliesemann de Guevara (Supervisor)

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