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Ethnicity in a Mythical Racial Democracy’s Metropolis: Ethnic Identity and Politics in São Paulo, Brazil


My dissertation examines why different immigrant groups, particularly those that do not currently face much economic discrimination, on average, choose different strategies of political assimilation by the third generation. The answers to this question are important to understanding the political integration of immigrant groups of all income levels. The primary argument I make is that racial or ethnic identifications that result from experiencing discrimination often explain political behaviors and attitudes among immigrant groups. First, I argue that membership in a relatively exclusive ethnic group experiencing discrimination is associated with ethnic voting. Second, consistent with and extending Mary Waters’ (1996) argument, I argue that non-white immigrant groups are more inclined to support race-based government measures, such as racial quotas for university admissions and government jobs that benefit other non-white groups because of personal experiences and awareness of racial discrimination in society. Furthermore, I argue that the agricultural cooperatives on which the first Japanese and Jewish immigrants worked provided them the social capital to form other ethnic community-based organizations, which facilitated their political incorporation in Brazil. This is an advantage not shared by current economic immigrants, and Catholic NGOs step in to help these current immigrants overcome this disadvantage.

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