Intersectionality as Intertwined Trajectories: Changing Consequences of International and Internal Migrations for the Intersections of Racial, Gender and Migratory Identities in Western São Paulo, 1880-1914 and 1970-2010

Karl Monsma, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul
Andréa Vettorassi, Universidade Federal de Goiás

The meaning and consequences of intersectional categories are influenced by people’s locations in trajectories such as the life course, family formation and dissolution, educational and occupational careers, and migration histories. These trajectories and their intertwinings also change over time. We examine the changing relations among groups defined by combinations of racial, gender and migratory identities in western São Paulo state during two key moments of Brazilian history: the period of abolition of slavery and mass European immigration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; and the period of the great migration, mostly of Afro-Brazilians, from Northeastern Brazil to the Southeast from the 1930s onward. The paper is based on archival research for the first period and interviews with migrants for the second. After abolition freed men and women often claimed dignity by adopting prevailing gender norms. At the same time, European, mostly Italian, immigrants struggled for better treatment by refusing to be treated like black people, and as a result soon developed group hostility toward Afro-Brazilians. By the time of mass Northeastern migration, the descendants of Europeans were the majority in western São Paulo. They racialized Northeasterners and stigmatized them as backward and violent. Since the 1970’s, the nature of migrant employment has changed twice, with consequences for intersectional trajectories and identities. In the 1970’s, both male and female migrants worked in the São Paulo sugarcane harvest. In the 1990’s, intensified harvest work rhythms led to an all-male workforce, with women and children generally staying in the Northeast and husbands and fathers absent for about nine months each year, which increased female autonomy in the Northeast. With mechanized harvesting, both men and women now migrate to São Paulo, but find mainly urban employment and stay permanently, with new consequences for racial and gendered identities, conflicts and solidarities.

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 Presented in Session 188. Here, There, Everywhere: Blackness Across the Globe