Race and Region in the Americas

AHA Session 129
Conference on Latin American History 28
Friday, January 6, 2017: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Room 601 (Colorado Convention Center, Meeting Room Level)
Glen Goodman, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Barbara Weinstein, New York University

Session Abstract

This panel examines how ideas about race and region have developed concurrently throughout the Americas. In the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries nations throughout the hemisphere came to be understood as divided into distinct political and geographical regions. As intellectuals, politicians, and residents began to define the cultures of these regions, race became a fundamental category in the construction of regional narratives (and counter-narratives). Building off recent work dedicated to the study of race and regional identity – particularly Barbara Weinstein’s The Color of Modernity – this panel offers an examination of race and region that crosses scales, from the local to the regional and from the national to the hemispheric. The panel unites a phenomenon occurring in distant locales that are rarely united in academic study: Brazil, Colombia, and the United States. Campbell and Goodman present race and region in two distinct parts of Brazil: the Northeast and the South. Campbell’s paper discusses how artists, activists, journalists and intellectuals carefully tied the region's identity to indigenous and Afro-Brazilian history, emphasizing that narratives of race and region differed depending on the scale of the conversation. Goodman’s paper examines the role of "white" southern Brazilians (of German and Italian descent) who were disproportionately favored with credit, land, and other privileges during the agro-industrial expansion of Brazil's western frontier. Bolivar’s paper compares soccer players from the Colombian regions of Antioquia and Valle del Cauca, showing how the players relate with and dispute established ideas about regional identities. Bland’s paper turns to an examination of race and region in the United States, analyzing scholarship, fiction, and theatrical productions created during the interwar period that emphasized black culture in the South Carolina Lowcountry. In each of these papers, race is mobilized as a way to forge regional exceptionalism, while also emphasizing national belonging. Further, through an examination of regionalism, these papers show that the very definition of race, as a cultural and historical descriptor, was changing in the early to mid-twentieth century.
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