Making ‘Race’ at the Urban Margins: Latin American and Caribbean Migration in Multicultural Chile

Bonhomme, Macarena. 2020. Making ‘Race’ at the Urban Margins: Latin American and Caribbean Migration in Multicultural Chile. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis explores how ‘race’ is made at the national and local level in multicultural postcolonial Chile. Furthermore, it examines how Latin American and Caribbean migrants negotiate both state and everyday racisms, navigating boundaries of belonging at the urban margins. Racist state politics have not only been embedded since colonial times and the foundations of the Chilean nation-state by the systematic denial of the presence and rights of Afro-Chileans and indigenous communities, but are reinforced by immigration policies that have created exclusionary boundaries against the colonial ‘non-white’ ‘other,’ especially Afro-descendants. Drawing on a 17-month ethnography, 70 in-depth interviews and two focus groups with migrants and Chileans between 2015 and 2018, this thesis deconstructs contemporary racism in Latin America amid growing South-South migration, uncovering multiple interplaying factors. I show how immigration policies have impacted migrants’ lives, ranking them into racial hierarchies of belonging that are reproduced and materialised in the neighbourhood, even reinforcing everyday racisms. It reveals that contemporary racism emerges from a complex entanglement between ‘old racisms’ of biological heredity and cultural racisms. Foremost, it exposes how racism and the process of ‘othering’ operates at different levels across society. Both Chileans and migrants redefine their ‘racial’ identities and constantly assert their ‘whiteness’ in different ways. Racial formations and colonial representations of ‘indigeneity’ and ‘African-ness’ are redefined and racisms are reproduced in new instantiations amid the struggle for resources. This thesis contributes empirically and theoretically to migration, racial, and de- and post-colonial studies in Latin America, transcending both the nationally-bounded and biologically-grounded ideas on how racism operates. While Chileans produce difference to assert a superior status by making migrants feel like ‘space invaders,’ migrants, especially former migrants, produce difference to navigate racisms and claim their ‘right to the city’ amidst social exclusion. This ethnography unveils the most challenging aspect of multiculturalism.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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Racism, race, race-making, migration, South-South migration, Latin America and the Caribbean, Latin American and Caribbean migrants, Chile, multilcultural neighbourhood, multiculturalism, ethnic studies, process of racialisation, racial formations, urban margins, public space, everyday racism, state racism, ‘right to the city’, coexistence, social conflict, social exclusion, migratory context, mestizaje, ethnography, immigration policies, belonging, process of othering, residential neighbourhood, housing politics, collective housing, borders, uncertainty, immigration status, labour market, racial state, contemporary racism, postcolonial, decolonial.

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30 June 2020

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Date Deposited:

08 Jun 2021 15:11

Last Modified:

16 Jun 2023 01:26


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