Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Contextualized Rights as Effective Rights to All: The Case of Affirmative Action in Brazil

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Abstract:  This article explores how two main narratives about slavery may lead to varying perspectives on social rights. Some collective narratives endorse a superficial idea of equality of rights, neglecting factors such as race and ethnicity, while others reject this apparent universalistic view, promoting more effective, de facto equality. The latter narrative supports horizontal redistribution, strongly contrasting with the former. Using Brazil’s affirmative action programs for Black students as a case study, this article will address two prevalent national narratives about the slavery of Black Africans and persons of Black African descent. Only one of those narratives could lead to what I would identify as a “contextualized theory of rights,” ensuring horizontal equality amidst a backdrop of brutal slavery and structural racism. This narrative offers a plurally faceted, dialogical approach to rights that can respond to the needs of differently situated individuals. The article will explore the evolution of such a collective narrative in Brazil’s race relations.

Keywords:  affirmative action; education; narrative; racial discrimination; structural racism



© Daniela Ikawa. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.