Intimacy and inequality: manumission and miscegenation in nineteenth-century Bahia (1830-1888)

Collins, Jane-Marie (2010) Intimacy and inequality: manumission and miscegenation in nineteenth-century Bahia (1830-1888). PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Abstract

This thesis proposes a new paradigm for understanding the historical roots of the myth of racial democracy in Brazil. In order to better comprehend the co-existence of race discrimination and racial democracy in Brazil it is argued that the myth itself needs to be subjected to an analysis which foregrounds the historically unequal relations of both race and gender. This study demonstrates how the enigma that is Brazilian race relations is the result of two major oversights in the scholarly work to date. First, the lack of critical attention to the historical processes and practices which gave rise to the so-called unique version of race relations in Brazil: manumission and miscegenation. Second, the sidelining of the role of gender and sex, as well as the specific and central place of black women’s labour, in theoretical formulations about Brazilian race relations.

The overarching intellectual aim of this thesis is to invert the way notions of familiarity and intimacy have been represented in the history of miscegenation and manumission in Brazilian slave society. The role of intimacy in the social history of race relations is instead shown to be firmly located within a hierarchy of race and gender inequalities predicated on the inferiority of blacks and women. In turn, this thesis explores how these race and gender inequalities intersected to inform and shape enslaved women’s versions of resistance and visions of freedom. In doing so this study unpicks some of the notions of advantage and privilege traditionally associated with women in general and light skin colour in particular in the processes of manumission and miscegenation; notions that are foundational to the myth of racial democracy.

Through an examination and analysis of primary sources pertaining to the lives of enslaved and freedwomen and their descendants in nineteenth-century Bahia, this study brings together different areas of their lived experiences of enslavement, manumission, miscegenation and freedom as these women came into contact with the authorities at pivotal moments in their lives. Collectively, these sources and the analysis thereof expose the limitations of advantage or privilege that have been associated with being female, parda or mulatta in the historiography of Brazilian slave society in general and the literature on manumission in particular. By foregrounding and highlighting the ways in which overlapping inequalities of race, gender and status determined experiences of enslavement and expectations of freedom during slavery, this study produces a new approach to interpreting race and gender history in Brazil, and a more comprehensive understanding of Brazilian slave labour relations.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Supervisors:Geary, Dick
Faculties/Schools:UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of Modern Languages and Cultures
ID Code:1801
Deposited By:Dr Jane-Marie Collins
Deposited On:02 Dec 2011 17:26
Last Modified:02 Dec 2011 17:36

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