Roitman, Karem. Race, ethnicity, and power in Ecuador: the manipulation of mestizaje. FirstForumPress, 2009. 319p bibl index afp; ISBN 9781935049074, $75.00. Reviewed in 2010jun CHOICE.
Roitman's study runs against the current of much of the recent work on race and ethnicity in Latin America. Most scholars focus on subaltern perspectives, whereas Roitman (international relations, Regent's College, London) examines elite attitudes. The dominant trend is to interpret race and ethnicity as social constructions, but Roitman argues for the continuing biological nature of racial identities. Through interviews with elites in Quito and Guayaquil, she challenges a commonly accepted assumption that "wealth whitens." In a methodological appendix, Roitman ponders whether studying elites is to assume a fundamentally conservative perspective, and to large degree that is true. The author argues that her book is valuable because few studies exist on elite constructions of mestizo identities. In a sense, she is correct, because almost all studies of ethnicity in Ecuador are informed by a political commitment to indigenous struggles. On the other hand, most studies of power approach the topic from an elite perspective, even if they do not consciously interrogate the topic of ethnicity. Nevertheless, Roitman's book is useful for documenting what is readily apparent to most visitors to Ecuador: white elites retain deeply held racist attitudes toward indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorian peoples. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries. -- M. Becker, Truman State University
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