Introduction: The invention of métissage

Miscegenation: the concept refers, as Jean-Loup Amselle rightly pointed out, to a front, de facto considered as essence and/or pure identity. It is an illusion and if the métissage exists, it is everywhere, has always been and will always be. But this concept, like race, has been historically constructed, and therefore situated, and has had, and still has, social effects.  The colonial empires of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries invented modern miscegenation, based on a supposed scientific knowledge, making it a “question”. Miscegenation (understood as the mixing of two “identities”, whatever they may be) had already been a problem for a long time, for example for religious reasons or because of the rules of parentage and marriage. But its articulation with pseudo-scientific thinking is more recent. Neither anthropological societies, nor administrators, nor jurists have had any scruples about codifying, producing discourses and devices about mestizaje and mestizos. This invention still has contemporary effects. Miscegenation” as we think of it today or as common sense defines it still owes to these imperial constructions, and to the encounters of populations that were linked to them, which we therefore find useful to decipher and analyze, from one empire to another. In the colonial context, the “mestizo question” was generally circumscribed to individuals born of the union between a colonizing father and a colonized mother. The reverse is very rare for various reasons, which Latin American feminists have explored in depth in recent years. In this sense, it is as much a questioning of the racial and social hierarchies produced within the imperial space. This fear of a disruption of power relations has “justified” the fabrication of a “mestizo question” and its “treatment”.