Indians and Blacks in the Political History of Latin America

AHA Session 105
Conference on Latin American History 18
Friday, January 7, 2011: 2:30 PM-4:30 PM
Room 312 (Hynes Convention Center)
Kris E. Lane, College of William and Mary
Gender, Genealogy, and Tribute Exemption in Bourbon New Spain
Norah Andrews, Johns Hopkins University
The Politics of Indians and Blacks in Southwestern Colombia, 1808–20
Marcela Echeverri, College of Staten Island, City University of New York
Rachel Sarah O'Toole, University of California, Irvine

Session Abstract

During the last decade, Latin American social history has turned to an exploration of the contexts in which Indians and blacks –free or enslaved– coexisted. An important strand of the research focused on the relationship of natives and blacks with the colonial military. Indians and blacks had access, albeit through dissimilar means, to military service. Participating in that colonial institution gave benefits to both, at individual and collective levels. Another trend in recent research has proven that, on the ground, legal as well as economic categories were fluid. Colonial economies were profoundly dependent on diverse forms of labor and the legal categories of Indian and slave were a product of differentiated systems. But in practice and everyday life, groups and individuals contested those definitions devised for population control. Building on earlier studies about the everyday relations of blacks and Indians in Latin America, the papers on this panel, spanning the colonial to independence and postcolonial periods, investigate how their study within the same conceptual space can provide analytical tools for expanding the political history of Latin America. Panelists will reflect on the endurance of colonial legal frameworks into the era of independence that racialized and differentiated Indians and blacks, as well as the discursive constructions of citizenship and labor capacity that increasingly homogenized these groups in the late colonial and postcolonial eras. Each paper considers a different region, giving the panel ample reach for parallels and comparisons. Norah Andrew’s paper demonstrates how the political actions of subaltern subjects determined colonial and imperial contexts. Focusing on eighteenth-century Mexican court cases involving Indians and blacks who claimed tribute exemptions, her study emphasizes the fluid, contested nature of tribute, which she engages as an economic and political institution with ties to colonial categories of power and rule. Marcela Echeverri explains the persistence of the racial and legal dynamics of colonialism in the politics of black and indigenous royalists during the independence wars in Colombia, and shows how these dynamics were defined simultaneously by subaltern and state politics. Yuko Miki explores the postcolonial Brazilian state’s espousal of race mixture as a discourse and policy that both incorporated and marginalized black and indigenous subjects, and how these groups participated in popular nation-building by contesting such a vision of nationhood. These papers, taken together with commentary by Rachel O’Toole, will find a broad audience among historians of the Americas with an interest in the analytical integration of indigenous and black populations, and among Latin Americanists interested in popular political history. Kris Lane, the panel chair, will enrich the panel as a historian of Indians and blacks in the mines of Spanish America.

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