August 23, 2016 at 8:44 am

Dantas Publishes Two Articles on Race and Family History in Brazil

Dr. Mariana Dantas, Associate Professor of History, recently published two articles based on her research.

Dr. Mariana Dantas

Dr. Mariana Dantas

Black Women and Mothers: Social Mobility and Inheritance Strategies in Minas Gerais during the Second Half of the 18th Century” was published in Almanack 12 (January/April 2016).

Through a critical examination of the possibilities of social improvement available to black women and their descendants, this article discusses social mobility among Afro-descending people in the town and precincts of Sabará, Minas Gerais, in the 18th century. Using various notarial documents (inventories, wills, deeds of sale, etc.) and papers from the municipal council of Sabará, this study investigates the types of economic success enjoyed by women of Afro-descent and the limits to their social mobility; the impact of inheritance procedures on the transfer of socio-economic resources from one generation to the next; and the strategies black women employed to ensure that transmission of their property to their children would translate into social advantages.

“Picturing Families in Black and White: Race, Family, and Social Mobility in 18th-Century Minas Gerais, Brazil” is forthcoming in The Americas: A Quarterly Review of Latin American History 73:4.

This article employs a generational approach to the study of social mobility in colonial Brazil and investigates the meaning and implications of the social category of pardo to three generations of families of mixed Portuguese and African in the Comarca do Rio das Velhas. As these families attempted to fashion themselves, and their members, in ways that might allow them to claim a distinguished or privileges status, their efforts sometimes clashed with those of Portuguese and colonial institutions eager to preserve the privileges of some while curbing those of others. Generation after generation, this dialogue fed an ongoing process of formation of categories of people in which the meaning of birth status, occupation, and African descent were constantly negotiated. Families, perhaps more than individuals or institutions, were at the forefront of this process.

Dantas was recently named a 2016-17 National Humanities Center Fellow. For more on her research and teaching, visit her History Department profile.

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