Seeing race like a state higher education affirmative action verification commissions in Brazil

Verônica Toste DAFLON
Camille Afia Pauline GIRAUT

A growing body of literature has focused on how different states continuously “make race” by legitimizing certain racial categories while invisibilizing others. Much less has been written on the actual processes of transforming race into a bureaucratic category when implementing antiracist public policies. This article focuses on the recent use of verification commissions to validate the racial self-identification of potential beneficiaries of racial quotas at federal higher education institutions in Brazil. We argue that through their choices, particularly through their definition of what race is, of who can see race, and of how to see race, these commissions are transforming not only understandings about affirmative action’s aims but also understandings of race. The study focuses on three potential consequences of commission practices for Brazilian racial boundaries: the disciplining of racial identifications, the decontextualization of race, and the individualization of racial injustice.