The Ibero-Americas and Scholarly Debates about Abolition: Methods, Questions, and Historiography

AHA Session 113
Conference on Latin American History 20
Saturday, January 4, 2020: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Flatiron (Sheraton New York, Lower Level)
Alex Borucki, University of California, Irvine
Celso Castilho, Vanderbilt University
The Audience

Session Abstract

This panel brings to light new research on the abolition of slavery in the Ibero-Americas. Our goal is to draw on exciting work being done on places typically not considered as prime sites for broader theorization, such as, Spain, Uruguay, the Texan borderlands, and Peru, to in turn ask fresh questions about the larger narratives that frame the histories of comparative abolition. Such narratives have either tended to take as normative the social and political phenomena that characterized abolition processes in Britain and the US, or they have generalized from the also specific experiences of larger plantation societies, such as, Brazil or Cuba. Yet, as these papers will show, there is much still to think through regarding abolition, especially in terms of religious and political thought, law and print culture, fugitivity and diplomacy, and the press and antislavery literature. In short, the presentations seek to establish new starting points for revisiting classic debates about the timing and nature of abolition.

These wide-ranging presentations should appeal to scholars of the African diaspora, comparative slavery, as well as, Latin American, European, and US history. The studies span from advanced dissertation projects to second and third books, showcasing scholars who are actively engaging the debates on abolition through transnational and comparative lenses, including in Spanish and Portuguese and outside the US academy. Emily Berquist Soule explores the long antislavery tradition in Spanish and Spanish American thought, highlighting the importance of Catholicism in fostering ideas and spaces to challenge slavery. Alex Borucki’s paper links processes of judicial abolitionism to broader public reckonings with slavery in early-nineteenth-century Uruguay. María Esther Hammack considers the making of Mexican abolitionism as related to US slavery, showing how US demands for the return of runaway enslaved people not only heightened diplomatic tensions between both countries, but also solidified Mexico’s commitment to antislavery politics. And, last, Celso Thomas Castilho turns to the intersection between literature and politics, and analyzes the serialization of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in a Peruvian newspaper for what it reveals about abolition and transformations in the cultural arena. Broadly, these papers engage the religious, social, legal, diplomatic, and literary contexts of abolition, illuminating a range of methods and questions that are reshaping our perspective of the topic.

See more of: AHA Sessions