The Jeito of the Brazilian Mulata: Race, Identity, and Distinction in a Racial Democracy

Nicole B. Hindert

Advisor: Nancy W Hanrahan, PhD, Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Committee Members: Amy Best, John Dale, Susan Trencher

April 14, 2016, 12:30 PM to 09:00 AM


This dissertation examines the complicated and incredibly important role of the one of the most emblematic of Brazilian national symbols: the mulata. A mixed-race woman who demonstrates the perfect blend of African and European traits, the mulata has become synonymous with the Brazilian nation, its people, and its racial system. Using interview material from 44 Brazilian women, this dissertation contributes to existing research in three specific areas. First, the interviews reveal the ways in which the mulata anchors the racial categories used institutionally and individually. Secondly, this dissertation addresses what a mulata is and what she means experientially. And finally, the interview material also investigates the how the mulata has direct consequences on the expression of identity and identity formation; interrogating the connections between the mulata at the individual level and the mulata as national symbol.