Penn Arts and Sciences

Learning Race in Newark (Ana Ramos-Zayas)

Friday, December 6, 2013 - 12:00pm - 1:30pm

View now on YouTube.

Ana Ramos-Zayas will present "Transnational Urban Competencies: Affect, Race, and Neoliberalism among Brazilian and Puerto Rican Youth in Newark, Belo Horizonte (Brazil), and Santurce (Puerto Rico)."

DRAWING FROM ETHNOGRAPHIC RESEARCH conducted in public and private schools in Newark, NJ, Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and Santurce, Puerto Rico, Professor Ramos-Zayas explore the intersection of affect, race, and neoliberalism in the lives of Brazilian and Puerto Rican youth.  She examines the ways in which U.S.-born Latinos and Latin American migrants learn race in the predominantly African American context of Newark, NJ and how these forms of racial learning compare to perspectives on race in countries of origin or ancestry.  The focus of Ramos-Zayas’ work is on how affect, the organization of feelings and sentiments, intersects with the everyday evaluations of racial difference and the ongoing process of “racial learning,” particularly among Latin American migrants and US-born Latinos. Ultimately, the goal is to understand the impact of capital on young people’s intimate experience of the material environment, and the way in which “race” is perceived, learned, and affectively understood under the intensifying regime of neoliberalism.

“Through quotidian observations, these young US-born Latinos and Latin American migrants assessed the interactive styles of African American women . . . There was a general sense that the emotional style of African American women was more difficult to commodify because of their presumed inability to hide temperamental outbursts, a quality that would render them unmarriageable and unemployable in most of the service-sector, customer-oriented jobs available to working-class women of color in Newark. . . . Nevertheless, young Latinos and Latin American migrants also acknowledged the importance of acquiring a form of racial knowledge that would enable them to better navigate Newark’s urban landscape.  They recognized that African Americans possess that desired form of ‘urban competency,’ and the modernity, hipness, and cosmopolitanism globally associated with Blackness.”
– From Street Therapists

Ana Ramos-Zayas is Valentín Lizana y Parragué Chair of Latin American Studies within the Black and Hispanic Studies Department (BHS) at Baruch College, CUNY.  She is currently working on the intersection of parenting practices, privilege, and affect in two wealthy Latin American/Caribbean neighborhoods: Ipanema (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) and El Condado (San Juan, Puerto Rico).  Up until now, her scholarship has centered on the intersections of race, space, and citizenship on poor or working-class neighborhoods in the U.S., but she now wants to break the tradition of "protecting" elites from ethnographic scrutiny and has decided to shift her research focus accordingly..

Ramos-Zayas has written three books including Street Therapists:  Race, Affect and Neoliberal Personhood in Latino Newark (2012); National Performances: Class, Race and Space in Puerto Rican Chicago and Latino Crossings: Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and the Politics of Race and Citizenship (co-authored); and Latino Crossings: Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and the Politics of Race and Citizenship.

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