EIHS Lecture: "Lives and Afterlives of 'El Negro Raúl': Racial Stories in Twentieth-Century Argentina"
Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies <br> Thursday Series <br> Paulina L. Alberto, University of Michigan
Abstract: Is it redundant to speak of “racial stories”? In some ways, ideas about race are always a set of narratives about who people are and are not. But sometimes these take the form of classic stories with fixed characters, plots, and morals, and are passed on across generations and in multiple genres. The stories surrounding “el Negro Raúl,” an Afro-Argentine man who rose to fame in early twentieth-century Buenos Aires, illuminate the special power of narrative, with its blend of affective and cognitive persuasion, to shape racial attitudes. Raúl’s life and semi-fictional afterlives, which commentators construed as oddities in a homogenously white nation, also shed light on the construction and meanings of dominant racial ideologies in Argentina since the early 1900s.
Paulina L. Alberto (Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania, 2005) is Associate Professor in the Departments of History and Romance Languages and Literatures (Programs in Spanish and Portuguese) at the University of Michigan. She is the author of multiple articles on racial activism and racial ideologies in Latin America (with a focus on modern Brazil and Argentina), and of Terms of Inclusion: Black Intellectuals in Twentieth-Century Brazil (UNC Press, 2011), awarded the Roberto Reis Prize for Best Book in Brazilian Studies (BRASA, 2012) and the Warren Dean Prize for Best Book in Brazilian History (CLAH, 2013). She is co-editor (with Eduardo Elena) of Rethinking Race in Modern Argentina (forthcoming, Cambridge University Press). Her current book project on Raúl Grigera (“El Negro Raúl”), an (in)famous urban figure from early twentieth-century Buenos Aires, explores the power of racial stories to construct “whiteness” and “blackness” in modern Argentina and to shape individual fates.
Free and open to the public.
This lecture is part of the Thursday Series of the Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies. It is made possible by a generous contribution from Kenneth and Frances Aftel Eisenberg.