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RI(GH)TES OF INTIMACY AT DOCAPESCA: Race versus Racism at a Fish Market in Portugal

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 April 2006

Kesha Fikes
Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago


This essay observes how race adds value to market exchanges at a fisheries facility in Lisbon, Portugal. I examine scenarios that primarily involved interactions between Portuguese men who sold fish and Cape Verdean immigrant women who purchased it. The scenarios show how race is crystallized in interaction and how differently raced actors co-utilize race to accomplish different ends. When vendors initiated difference recognition for the purpose of promoting a sale, the value of race in that moment was not independent of how Cape Verdean women chose to ratify it. I show how racial knowledge could be mediated through its commodity status, as Cape Verdean women's responses codetermined the political contents of Portuguese men's racial ascriptions. Importantly, the argument is not that subjects independently engaged in the reproduction of their privileged or marginal social status. Rather, the dialectic condition of interaction involved paired forms of engagement that produced difference. An examination of this context helps illuminate when and how race recognition, in public, is identified as neutral or politically charged.

© 2005 W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research

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I want to send a special thanks to the following persons and communities who have helped me reconceptualize the organization and contents of this essay: Judith Farquhar, Brackette Williams, Danilyn Rutherford, Jessica Cattelino, Jennifer Cole, the students from my winter 2005 course, “Writing Race in Ethnography,” the participants in the Reproduction of Race and Racial Ideologies Workshop (October 2004) at the University of Chicago, Jean Comaroff, and John Comaroff, in addition to António Tomás, Filipe Calvão, Laurie Calhoun, and the reviewers of this essay. This essay is a portion of the second chapter of my manuscript, Managing African Portugal: The Immigrant Severing of Lusotropicalism.



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