Dissertation: Stories of Racial Discrimination in Brazil: Language, stigma and identity

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Tue May 15 14:57:31 UTC 2007

Stories of Racial Discrimination in Brazil: Language, stigma and identity

Institution: Georgetown University
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2006

Author: Mercia Santana Flannery merciaf at sas.upenn.edu

Dissertation Title: Stories of Racial Discrimination in Brazil: Language,
stigma and identity

Dissertation Director: Heidi E. Hamilton Deborah Schiffrin Ronald Scollon

Dissertation Abstract:

Although much has been written about racism in Brazil, there has yet to be
substantial research on the language used by individuals who have been
subjected to racial discrimination. The extensive literature on race in
Brazil suggests that racism is still a widespread challenge in this
country well-known for its extensive miscegenation and pride in the
commonly accepted harmonious relations of its people. This study
investigates stories of racial discrimination collected in sociolinguistic
interviews with four individuals. The purpose of this investigation is to
uncover the genre's characteristics and describe the linguistic strategies
that the tellers use to convey their perception of themselves.
Specifically, it analyzes how four individuals convey a sense of
possessing a stigmatized identity, sometimes through their detachment from
protagonist's roles in the narratives.

It addresses the following questions: What are the similarities in the
kinds of discrimination reported and in the linguistic features used? How
does the use of specific linguistic features contribute to characterize an
experience as discriminatory and mark the relationship between the tellers
and their accounts? This investigation of the discourse of racial
discrimination highlights the use of three main features: 1) pronoun
choice and how it marks involvement with, or detachment from, the events
being narrated; 2) reported speech and how it enables the tellers to
position the characters vis-a-vis each other, creating the roles of victim
and perpetrator; 3) verbal forms and how the depiction of the characters'
actions unveils their participation in the events.

The combination of these linguistic features enables the tellers to convey
their identities as members of a stigmatized group. However, the signs of
affiliation to a stigmatized group are not always clear-cut. This
investigation reveals how the storytellers attempt to reconcile being
members of a stigmatized group, and having been subject to experiences of
discrimination, with their desire to be respected. This study contributes
to fill in the gap in the studies on language and race adding to our
understanding of how racism and discrimination influence individuals'
views of self. It combines narratives, stigma and language in the
interpretation of the speakers' identity.



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