The Environmental Axis of Identity Formation: Race, Labor, and Landscape in the Americas, 19th and 20th Centuries

AHA Session 175
Conference on Latin American History 38
Agricultural History Society 1
Saturday, January 6, 2018: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Columbia 10 (Washington Hilton, Terrace Level)
Mart Stewart, Western Washington University
Mart Stewart, Western Washington University

Session Abstract

This panel will explore the ways that racial and class identity formation takes place in, or finds expression through, specific landscapes and natural tropes. It will start by exploring the ways in which maritime and riverine knowledge imported from Africa helped enslaved individuals improve their access to specific labor niches in 18th century Bahia, Brazil. It will then examine landscape changes in 19th century South Carolina and Amazonia, where productive and ecological transformations impacted ideas of race and set up the scenario for new shifts during the twentieth century. Finally, the panel will take us to São Paulo, Brazil, in the 1970s, where long-term patterns of cane labor and exploitation mixed with agricultural transformations to generate a racially- and class-linked term to identify sugarcane workers: bóia-fria, or cold lunch. In sum, drawing from social, environmental, and cultural history, the panel analyses specific representations and tropes from the natural world to illuminate the connections between landscape change and the construction of collective identities. 
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