Mãe Africana, Pátria Brasileira: negotiating the racial politics of identity, freedom and motherhood in nineteenth-century Bahia, Brazil

Collins, Jane-Marie (2013) Mãe Africana, Pátria Brasileira: negotiating the racial politics of identity, freedom and motherhood in nineteenth-century Bahia, Brazil. In: Intimacy and Inequality: female histories and feminist readings of manumission and motherhood in Brazilian slave society (Bahia 1830-1888). Liverpool University Press, Liverpool. (Submitted)

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Abstract

Margarida Ignácio de Medeiros was one of up to twelve million enslaved Africans brought to Brazil. She did not, however, remain enslaved all her life. Margarida’s trajectory from enslavement to freedom was typical of many enslaved African women labouring in urban centres of nineteenth-century Brazil. Although regarded as a domestic slave her enslaved working life, and day, was divided between house and street. Margarida’s work in the house provided her owner with domestic comfort, while her work in the street provided her with an income. Allowed to retain a portion of that income, Margarida was eventually able to purchase her freedom. While living with her owner, Margarida also (re)produced free born children over whom her owner tried to obtain custody.

Through an intersectional approach this study attempts to disentangle the conditions of race, gender and status to understand how these conditions interfaced to shape African women’s lived experience as ‘domestic’ labourers and mothers in enslavement and in freedom, and how those experiences shaped ideas about resistance and identity. The very personal battle for the custody of Margarida’s children examined here is also understood as an ideological one about the shape of the nation, about rights and power vis-à-vis freedom, property, family and citizenship. Within this case, then, lies a political struggle for the control of labour as a pre-requisite for citizenship, a racial struggle for supremacy and hegemony of white over black, Brazilian over African, and a cultural contestation over the conditions of creolization. For Margarida, though, as a ‘domestic’ labourer, and in ways similar to her free counterparts in the U.S., her act of litigation against her former owner was an assertion of her right as a freedwoman to an independent economic and emotional existence.

Item Type: Book Section
Additional Information: Draft section from book.
Keywords: Brazil, slavery, gender, race, motherhood, African, manumission, children
Schools/Departments: University of Nottingham UK Campus > Faculty of Arts > School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies > Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies
Depositing User: Collins, Dr Jane-Marie
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2013 10:02
Last Modified: 13 Sep 2016 12:51
URI: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/2192

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