Research Project Tongtong Wu

Brazil is a country with diverse racial groups like Europeans, Africans, indigenous people and Asian immigrants. Miscegenation was common in Brazil since colonial era under the ideology of white supremacy, and the white Brazilians believed that Brazil would eventually become a white society as a result of mixing races. Even though Brazil stresses racial democracy, there are discriminations, certain racial dominations and socioeconomic difference among different racial groups.
During the period of slavery abolition, Brazilian slave masters gradually lost those Afro-Brazilians who were their main source of labor. To compensate for the labor loss, the Brazilian slave owners to lower their overall cost, they tried to hire cheap Chinese laborers in Latin America, the US and Guangdong Province. The Brazilian slave masters took advantage of Chinese immigrants were distant from their home country with little protection from the Chinese government and had lower status as a new group of settlers. The Chinese government negotiated with the Brazilian government reluctantly on sending Chinese laborers to Brazil temporarily under a five-year contract while granting the Chinese the freedom to entry and exit Brazil.
Brazilians reacted to Chinese immigration with different attitudes. Some regarded hiring Chinese laborers, as a transitory move for the abolition of slavery, while others were fear of Chinese immigration would worsen the existing racial problems. There were stereotypes about Chinese immigrants with compliments and dislike simultaneously. There were compliments that the Chinese were hard-working, tough and resistant to hardships, while others said that Chinese were unwilling to fit into the society. Unlike the Indians and Africans who Christianized themselves after arriving at Brazil, Chinese with their unique cultural heritage made them unable to assimilate into a western society. As an isolated group in Brazil, the Chinese Brazilians were neglected. Similar situation also happened to the Brazilian Japanese, which they were living in Brazil as a unique group with some level of discrimination. As unique racial and ethnic groups in Brazil, they struggled to live in Brazil and build connections with their home country.
As a Chinese international student in the US, I would like to explore the life of Asian immigrants in Brazil because their struggles would make me better understand discrimination and the hardships they have. To incorporate my projected major Psychology, I would like to explore how does the Brazilian society impact the mental health of Asian immigrants. As the Asian immigrants were placed in the middle of Brazilian society and parted from their home country, I would like to investigate the challenge to blend into a different westernized culture and separation from their cultural heritage impact their philosophy, education, career development and mental health in Brazil. I am also interested in exploring the social dynamics between Asian immigrants and other racial groups. I have started reading books like Negotiating National Identity by Lesser on Japanese and Chinese immigrants history in Brazil and Racism in a Racial Democracy, which I am currently reading for the Book Presentation, as I have learned about how Euro-Brazilians and Afro-Brazilians interacted with each other, and racism in a smaller Brazilian community. Therefore, I could draw comparisons among racial groups and identify the discrimination Asian Brazilians experience. I would find more primary sources on Asian Brazilians talking about their immigration experience either from documentaries or journals, but I might need assistance on those primary resources. I would also find more secondary resources on psychological health of those immigrants.


Conrad, Robert. “The Planter Class and the Debate over Chinese Immigration to Brazil,
1850- 1893.” International Migration Review 9, no. 1 (1975): 41.
Dantas, Sylvia Duarte. “An Intercultural Psychodynamic Counselling Model: A Preventive
Work Proposition for Plural Societies.” Counselling Psychology Quarterly 24, no. 1 (March 2011): 1–14.
France Winddance Twine. Racism in a Racial Democracy: The Maintenance of White
Supermacy in Brazil. New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers University Press, 1998.
Jeffrey Lesser. Negotiating National Identity : Immigrants, Minorities, and the Struggle for
Ethnicity in Brazil. Durham, N.C: Duke University Press, 1999.
Twine, France Winddance. 1998. Racism in a Racial Democracy : The Maintenance of White
Supremacy in Brazil. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1998.