Antislavery Serials in Latin America: Slavery, Literary Culture, and Atlantic Abolitionism

Saturday, January 8, 2022: 9:10 AM
Grand Ballroom D (Sheraton New Orleans)
Celso Thomas Castilho, Vanderbilt University
This paper draws attention to antislavery-serial literature in Latin American newspapers from the 1840s and 1850s. The works considered here include translations and adaptations of novels, poems, short stories, and travelogues. The following examples illustrate this phenomenon: Victor Hugo’s/Gonçalves Dias’s, “Canção de Bug Jargal,” from 1846 São Luis, Brazil, Gustave Beaumont’s, María, o la esclavitud en los Estados Unidos, published in 1849 Mexico City, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s, Uncle Tom’s Cabin printed in 1853 Lima, and Juana Manso’s, La familia del comendador, which appeared in 1854 Buenos Aires. Usually, these works were found in the folletín/folhetim space on the bottom part of the front page; serials were key to sales, and antislavery titles formed part of dailies, as well as, literary and women’s newspapers.

Expanding on a historiographical tendency to frame antislavery serials as an index of local political mobilizations, and on literary scholarship that typically centers on a particular writer, title, or place, this paper considers antislavery serials collectively, and proposes that a fresh reflection on literary culture can change how we think about Latin American and Atlantic abolitionism. As such, it highlights the multiple ways that studying antislavery serials can lead to a rethinking about the transnational horizons of the press and literary networks at a time when the trans-Atlantic slave trade was of great importance, if also coming to an end; it also obliges us to look more closely at the relationship between the press and slavery, and to regard these serials in their full context, that is, alongside the runaway and for sale slave ads that were also part of the newspapers, or the pro-slavery essays that were reprinted in newspapers where slavery no longer existed; last, this return to the antislavery serials is significant for revisiting historical narratives about Latin American cultural and intellectual history.