Tuesday, July 15, 2008

token


token: cuota

I've often wondered how to say token, you know, the one woman on the panel, the one person of color, the one youth - not that aiming for diversity in our organizations is meaningless, but it can be counter productive when it turns into a de rigueur nod that doesn't question the underlying system of domination that makes it more likely that the panel will be a bunch of older white guys. Anyways, in Colombia the only Afro-Colombian in the cabinet is Paula Marcela Moreno, the Minister of Culture. She was recently asked in an El Tiempo article if 'se siente cuota de los democratas' (as in, was she appointed to appease US Congressional Democrats concerns about racism in Colombia and the far greater impact of the conflict on Afro-Colombians). Her answer was 'yo me siento cuota de Dios'. Odd.

5 comments:

d said...

I absolutely agree with your take on cuotas! I think they also essentialize race and reduce it to a few, fixed social markers.

Andrea Parra said...

I actually don't agree with the translation of token into cuota. For example "La ley de cuotas" is the affirmative action colombian law that requires the government to appoint a certain % of women. In this case cuota does mean quota. Unfortunately I don't think there is a single word in Spanish that actually conveys well the meaning of "token", which would be more like a "mara" o "amuleto" in my view, which actually are good metaphors in the sense "token" is. May be a closer word to the meaning of token is "muestra" like a sample. So, I don't have a good answer for this one but I think it can be counterproductive to use the word cuota as equivalent for token because when it is use in an affirmative action context it shouldn't have a negative connotation necessarily.

Sara Koopman said...

shouldn't, but often does, no? it certainly seemed to in that article at any rate. but good point, using it like that can reinscribe. as always, it's about being careful about the context.

Jonathan Sanders said...

Something a Puerto Rican friend of guessed for token is to say "representante de raza".

p.j. "Bueno, ya sabes como es, que necesitan representante de raza negra en el consejo directivo para legitimar sus decisiones".

Sara Koopman said...

I don't think representante gets at the negatie connotation. I've been chewing on this and Andrea's comment ... in the States at least the term quota alone does not necessarily have the negative connotation that token has - as in, an equality quota where half of the slate has to be women. Maybe the better rendition of token would be "cuota politica"? Still not sure it gets at it. Other ideas still welcome.