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Revista de Saúde Pública

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BASTOS, João Luiz; GONCALVES, Helen; FAERSTEIN, Eduardo  and  BARROS, Aluísio JD. Experiences of discrimination among university students in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Rev. Saúde Pública [online]. 2010, vol.44, n.1, pp.28-38. ISSN 0034-8910.

OBJECTIVE: To understand experiences of discrimination lived by undergraduate students and to analyze their applicability to the construction of a Brazilian discrimination scale. METHODOLOGICAL PROCEDURES: In a qualitative study five focus groups were conducted with 43 university students from the city of Rio de Janeiro, Southeastern Brazil, in 2008. Students from undergraduate courses with different candidate/place ratios; of both sexes; self-identified as white, mixed or black; and belonging to two public higher education institutions were selected. An interview guide focusing on issues related to "prejudice" and "discrimination" and asking participants about their experiences of discrimination was used. The method of interpretation of meanings was adopted, seeking to understand the context, reasons and logics of participants' speech. ANALYSIS OF RESULTS: Prejudice was interpreted as something belonging to the field of ideas, probably equivocated, and which could be either positive or negative. Discrimination was attributed to the field of observable behaviors and with an invariably negative connotation. The interpretation of a discriminatory event as such was influenced by subjective factors, such as personal interests and the level of affectivity established between individuals. However, the limit between what was interpreted as discriminatory or not depended strongly on the specific context in which the interaction among individuals occurred. Different situations and, at times, more than one motivation were simultaneously indicated as regards discriminatory experiences. Participants saw themselves as both victims and perpetrators of discrimination. CONCLUSIONS: The interpretation of an event as discriminatory involves great complexity and the experiences of discrimination can hardly be generalized. When evident, the reasons for which individuals suppose they have been discriminated against may be multiple and associated with each other. Such aspects must be considered when constructing items for the discrimination scale.

Keywords : Young Adult; Students; Prejudice; Interpersonal Relations; Qualitative Research.

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