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In this class we’ll explore how notions about race and race “mixture” have developed in Latin America. The Hispanic and Lusophone Americas received almost 60% of all Africans traded across the Atlantic (compare this to around 4% sent to the US). Less familiar to most students than Anglophone settings, Latin America’s particular histories can help shed comparative light on the differences among race-making processes. We’ll focus on the relationship between race-making and slavery and emancipation, as well as on twentieth-century nation-building. In particular, we will explore connections between race and family formation and reproduction.

The key text is a recent monograph on race and reproductive and family history in Cuba by historian Karen Y. Morrison. Through demographic history methods and a focus on race as reproductive practice, Morrison proposes an exploration of race-making not just as intellectual or cultural history, but as a process occurring in small, daily ways through family formation and intimate reproductive decisions, particularly among non-white families.

Core Reading:
  • Karen Y. Morrison, Cuba’s Racial Crucible: The Sexual Economy of Social Identities, 1750-2000. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2015. [e-book at library]
  • Collins, Patricia Hill, “It’s All in the Family: Intersections of Gender, Race, and Nation.” Hypatia, 13:3 (Summer 1998): 62-82. [CC will circulate before the class. A useful piece on connections between family history and race, and on intersectional approaches]

Seminar Questions:

  • How have ideas about race been constructed over time in the societies of the Americas? How might we explain some of the similarities and differences?
  • What are the connections between slavery, emancipation, and notions about race?
  • How have ideas about inter-racial sex and race “mixture” influenced Latin American nation-building processes?
  • Why has Morrison chosen reproductive history as a means to explore race-making processes? What are her methods? How do her conclusions differ from those of other scholars?

Further reading on slavery, race and reproductive histories in Latin America:

Schmidt-Nowara, Christopher. Slavery, Freedom, and Abolition in Latin America and the Atlantic World. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2011 [a useful, very readable recent survey]

Peter Wade, Race and Sex in Latin America. Pluto Press, 2009

Graham, Richard, ed. The Idea of Race in Latin America

McClintock, Anne, Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest (Routledge, 1994)

Stoler, Ann, Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Race and the Intimate in Colonial Rule (University of California Press, 2010)

Twinam, Ann, Purchasing Whiteness: Pardos, Mulattos, and the Quest for Social Mobility in the Spanish Indies. Stanford University Press, 2015.

________. Public Lives, Private Secrets: Gender, Honour, Sexuality, and Illegitimacy in Colonial Spanish America.

Nancy P. Appelbaum, Anne S. Macpherson, and Karin Alejandra Rosemblatt (eds.), Race and Nation in Modern Latin America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003. [essays on particular country case studies and a useful intro and afterword by Peter Wade]

Skidmore, Thomas E. Black into White: Race and Nationality in Brazilian Thought. Durham: Duke University Press, [1974] 1998.

Telles, Edward. Race in Another America: the Significance of Skin Colour in Brazil. Princeton University Press, 2004.

Schwarcz, Lilia Moritz. The Spectacle of the Races: Scientists, Institutions and the Race Question in Brazil, 1870-1930. New York: Hill & Wang, 1999 

Further reading on race, slavery, and gender in Cuba:

Cowling, Camillia Conceiving Freedom: Women of Colour, Gender, and the Abolition of Slavery in Havana and Rio de Janeiro (University of North Carolina Press, 2013)

De la Fuente, Alejandro. “Myths of Racial Democracy: Cuba, 1900-1912,” Latin American Research Review 34, 3 (Fall 1999): 39-73

De la Fuente, Alejandro. A Nation for All: Race, Inequality and Politics in Twentieth-Century Cuba. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001.

De la Fuente, Alejandro. “Slave Law and Claims-making in Cuba: The Tannenbaum Debate Revisited,” Law and History Review, 22:2 (Summer 2004): 339-67.

Knight, Franklin. Slave Society in Cuba during the Nineteenth Century. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1970.

Kutzinsky, Vera, Sugar’s Secrets: Race and the Erotics of Cuban Nationalism. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1993.

Lovejoy, Henry. Prieto: Yoruba Kingship in Colonial Cuba during the Age of Revolutions. University of North Carolina Press, 2018.

Martínez Alier, Verena. Marriage, Class and Colour in Nineteenth-Century Cuba: A Study of Racial Attitudes and Sexual Values in a Slave Society. Cambridge University Press, 1974.

Scott, Rebecca J. Degrees of Freedom: Louisiana and Cuba After Slavery. Harvard University Press, 2005.

A couple of primary sources and testimonios:

Barnet, Miguel. Biography of a Runaway Slave, by Esteban Montejo, translated by Jocaster Innes. London: Bodley Head, 1963 [and many subsequent editions]

Castillo Bueno, María de los Reyes, and Daisy Rubiera Castillo, Reyita: The Life of a Black Cuban Woman in the Twentieth Century. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2000.

García, Gloria. Voices of the Enslaved in Nineteenth Century Cuba, translated by Nancy L. Westrate. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011. [e-book at library]

Further reading on race beyond Latin America (mostly the US):

Mark Smith, How Race is Made (2006)

C.Degler, 'Slavery and the Genesis of American Race Prejudice' Comparative Studies in History and Society (1959)

David Brion Davis, 'Constructing Race: A Reflection' William & Mary Quarterly (1997)

Benjamin Braude 'The Sons of Noah and the Construction of Ethnic and Geographical Identities in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods' William & Mary Quarterly (1997)

Barbara Fields 'Ideology and Race in American History' From Region, Race, and Reconstruction: Essays in Honor of C. Vann Woodward. Ed. J. Morgan Kousser and James M. McPherson. New York / Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982, pp. 143-177

Essay Questions:

  • How helpful is family history as a means of writing the history of race-making?
  • Is comparative history useful or limiting when it comes to understanding the history of race and race-making?