Document Type


Publication Title

Handbook of Law and Society in Latin America

Publication Date



racial equality, latin america, law, criminal law


Law and Society research in and about Latin America has been particularly beneficial in elucidating the gap between the ideals of racial equality laws in the region and the actual subordinated status of its racialized subjects. Some of the recurrent themes in the race-related literature have been: the limits of the Latin American emphasis on criminal law to redress discriminatory actions; the limits of multicultural constitutional reform for full political participation; the insufficiency of land reform and recognition of ethnic communal property titles; and the challenges to implementing race conscious public policies such as affirmative action. Especially illuminating have been the surveys of judicial cases that demonstrate the continued judicial resistance to the notion that racial discrimination exists in Latin America simply because its manifestations are deemed to be inconsequential compared to the “real discrimination” of the racially violent United States. Future research projects could be instrumental in disrupting this Latin American judicial attitude of racial innocence that interferes with the enforcement of anti-discrimination laws. Emerging research could interrogate the presumption that racial violence does not and has not existed in Latin America, and the social disempowerment of not naming the violence as racial. In short, deconstructing the judicial premise that racial violence is particular to the United States and the defining feature of true racism by which strategic comparisons to Latin America’s presumed non-racial violence situate it as non-discriminatory, all point to a productive area for future Law and Society race-related research.

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