Nation-Making beyond Slavery: The United States and the Transformation of 19th-Century Brazil

AHA Session 283
Conference on Latin American History 60
Sunday, January 7, 2018: 9:00 AM-10:30 AM
Virginia Suite A (Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level)
Peter M. Beattie, Michigan State University
Peter M. Beattie, Michigan State University

Session Abstract

Hailed as hemispheric “brothers” by overeager financial journals in recent years, Brazil and the United States are certainly kin in terms of their historical trajectories, especially when it comes to the problem of slavery and nation making during the nineteenth century. To date, a robust tradition of comparative studies between the two slave nations has largely focused on race and culture, but has largely treated the Brazilian and United States as separate cases. This has brought into relief important differences regarding the treatment of slaves, the slow demise of slavery, and the distinct paths of political development that emerged as a result in both contexts. More recently, scholars uncovered important connections by looking at the economic structures impacting nation-formation and the institution of slavery in Brazil and the United States from the time of independence to the wars of the 1860s. Focusing on the transatlantic slave trade, commodity exchange, itinerant abolitionists, and the circulation of print material, historians have continued to discover important connections between the two countries.

This panel aims to take this trend a step further by offering approaches that consider the historical parallels and junctures between the United States and Brazil in terms of the intertwined problems of slavery and nation making. Panelists will examine how technological innovation, geographical imagination, racial formations, and means of population control emerging in the United States conditioned Brazilian modernization. By looking at overlapping networks, policy models, and spatial imaginaries operating across national boundaries, the presentations will sound the possibilities of a comparative and connected history between the two largest independent nations in the Americas in the nineteenth century. The panel thus serves as an exploratory opportunity for historians of the United States and of Brazil to come into a substantive dialogue across regional specializations.

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