Intimacy and Inequality: Manumission and Miscegenation in Nineteenth-Century Bahia (1830-1888)

Intimacy and Inequality: Manumission and Miscegenation in Nineteenth-Century Bahia (1830-1888)

University of Nottingham
April 2010
428 pages

Jane-Marie Collins

Thesis submitted to the University of Nottingham for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Hispanic and Latin American Studies

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.


  • Acknowledgements
  • Glossary
  • Section One: Introduction
    • Part 1: Introduction and overview
    • Part 2: ntimacy and Inequality: inverting the paradigm of racial democracy
  • Section Two: Becoming Freed
    • 2.1 Introduction
    • 2.2 Manumission in comparative perspective
    • 2.3 Manumission in Africa
    • 2.4 Manumission in the Americas
    • 2.5 Manumission in Brazil
    • 2.6 Manumission, a gendered perspective: assessing advantage
    • 2.7 Childhood manumissions, Salvador 1830-1871
    • 2.8. Disputing and defending freed status
    • 2.9 Conclusion
  • Section Three: Work, Wealth and Mobility
    • Part 1: The Demographics of Slavery in nineteenth-century Brazil
      • 3.1 Introduction
      • 3.2 The slave trades: trans-Atlantic and domestic
      • 3.3 Brazilian slave societies: provincial profiles
      • 3.4 Conclusion
      • 3.5 Occupational hierarchies, race and gender
      • 3.6 Conclusion
    • Part 2: Manumission and Mobility
      • 3.7 Introduction
      • 3.8 Manumission and creolisation
      • 3.9 Manumission and mobility
      • 3.10 Lourença on liberty
      • 3.11 Markets, labour and love
      • 3.12 Africanas and brasileiras, libertas and livres
      • 3.13 Motherhood and marriage
      • 3.14 Material wealth
      • 3.15 Markets and mobility
      • 3.16. Lourença’s last words
      • 3.17 Conclusion
  • Section Four: The Enslaved Family: Unity, Stability and Viability
    • 4.1 Introduction
    • 4.2 The historiography of the Brazilian slave family: an overview
    • 4.3 Slave family 1: African/urban
    • 4.4 Slave family 2: mixed race/mixed status
    • 4.5 Slave family 3: married/rural
    • 4.6 Slave family 4: slave/free marriage
    • 4.7. Conclusion
  • Section Five: Resistance
    • 5.1. Introduction
    • Part 1: Flight
      • 5.2 Paradigms
      • 5.3 Male flight
      • 5.4 Female flight: single women
      • 5.5 Female flight, family and protection
      • 5.6 Conclusion
    • Part 2: Murder
      • 5.7 Introduction
      • 5.8 Case studies
      • 5.9 Analysis
      • 5.10 Conclusion
    • Part 3: Infanticide
      • 5.11 Introduction
      • 5.12 Infanticide and slave resistance
      • 5.13 Infanticide and Illegitimacy: a question of honour?
      • 5.14 Conclusion
  • Section Six: Conclusion
  • Appendix
  • Sources and Bibliography

Read the entire thesis here.

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