A World Before Race? Gender, Mobility, and Property in the Early Modern Iberian World | DEMOS21

This is a virtual event on Zoom. Registration is mandatory.
Monday, March 15, 2021 - 18:00

The Center for Critical Democracy Studies at The American University of Paris and Professor Miranda Spieler invite you to the third symposium of a 7-part series on "Race, Law and Justice."

Protecting Heirs: Black Mothers, Inheritance, And Inter-Generational Mobility In Colonial Minas Gerais, Brazil (Mariana Dantas)

This paper compares the experiences of two black mothers as they tried to ensure that the children, born of their sexual relationship with their former master, inherited their father’s wealth and status. Joana Maria da Silva and Luiza Rodrigues da Cruz became mothers while still enslaved by the father of their children. They eventually attained their freedom, but only Luiza married her former master. These men’s death initiated a process of succession of property in which the children’s ability to inherit their father’s wealth and social standing was not always guaranteed. As they themselves neared death, Joana and Luiza took different legal measures to protect the future of their children. Sometimes working within the contours of inheritance and family law, at other times attempting legal shortcuts and circumventions, these women strove to ensure their descendants would be further removed from the status of slave and former slave that limited their own standing in colonial Mineiro society.

Bound Biographies: Transoceanic Itineraries And The Afro-Iberian Diaspora In The Early Modern World (Michelle McKinley)

Bound Biographies charts the travel experiences of Afro-Iberians who left the peninsula in service of their owners, or as freed itinerant persons as they forged their lives in the Americas in the first two centuries of Spanish expansion and settlement in the New World. The paper examines Afro-Iberian life on the Iberian Peninsula, traces Afro-Iberian travelers as they relocate in various port towns in the Americas and follows their return to the peninsula after living for considerable periods of time in the New World. Bound Biographies is part of a multi-sited project that uses the sources to reconstruct the experience of black mobility that was not forced. It explores the lives of black travelers in an early diaspora that was not exclusively tied to—yet indelibly shaped by the transatlantic slave trade. The paper focuses on royal travel licenses, official chronicles, ecclesiastical documents, and parochial and probate records as an evidentiary base to create these personal histories of travel and mobility. I view early modern emigration and travel to the Americas as one of several relocations in an individual’s lifetime. Inspired by the “biographical turn” in Atlantic history and slavery scholarship, Bound Biographies recreates the lives of those who shaped the early centuries of Iberian emigration and a black diaspora. In so doing, Bound Biographies renders a more complex and nuanced history of the people inextricably linked by the processes of Conquest, slavery, and Empire.

Mariana Dantas

Mariana Dantas is an associate professor of history at Ohio University and an expert on African diasporic peoples in the Atlantic World. Her first book, Black Townsmen: Urban Slavery and Freedom in the Eighteenth-Century Americas (2008), is a comparative social history of urban slaves in Baltimore and Brazil. She is now at work on a longitudinal history of mixed-race families in a Brazilian mining town, in which she traces the changing social meaning of race across three generations of townsmen. She is a co-founder of the Global Urban History Project, a research collaborative.

Michelle McKinley

Michelle McKinley is the Bernard B. Kliks Professor of Law at the University of Oregon Law School and Director of the Center for the Study of Women in Society. Her monograph, Fractional Freedoms: Slavery, Intimacy, and Legal Mobilization in Colonial Lima 1600-1700 (2016), reveals the efforts of enslaved women in Lima before local courts to secure their claims to liberty. Fractional Freedoms received the 2017 Judy Ewell prize for women’s history from the Rocky Mountain Council for Latin American Studies and honorable mention for the best work in sociolegal history from the Law and Society Association. She is also the founder and former director of the Amazonian Peoples' Resources Initiative in Peru, where she worked for nine years as an advocate for global health and human rights.

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