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The International Turn in American Studies

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Edited By Marietta Messmer and Armin Paul Frank

The volume is a contribution to the ongoing debate on the internationalization of American Studies. The essays by European, American and Latin American scholars provide critical evaluations of a wide range of concepts, including trans-national and post-national, international, trans-atlantic, trans-pacific, as well as hemispheric, inter-American and comparative American studies. Combining theoretical reflections and actual case studies, the collection proposes a reassessment of current developments at a time when American nations experience the paradoxical simultaneity of both weakened and strengthened national borders alongside multiple challenges to national sovereignty.
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Inter-(African-Latin-)American: An Experiment in “Inter-Location”

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Amós Nascimento

University of Washington, Tacoma, U.S.A.

Inter-(African-Latin-)American: An Experiment in “Inter-Location”

American Studies has been criticized not only because of its bias towards scholarship located in North America and influence by Anglophone discourses but also for its neglect of the African American experience of dislocation across the Americas. This essay reflects on the various experiences of peoples of African descent in distinct locations within the New World and discusses these experiences in light of the new proposal of “Inter-American Studies.” Taking the differentiated collective experience of Africans in the Americas as a paradigmatic case of moving “in between” contexts, we can assess initiatives in fields such as American Studies, African American Studies, and Latin American Studies, and explore the idea expressed in the title: Inter-(African-Latin-)American: An experiment in inter-location.

Introduction: Inter-(African-Latin-)American?

The first and perhaps most important question we should ask refers to the meaning of a small prefix that makes a big difference: inter. What is gained by adding this term to an already recognized field of studies? To answer this question and contribute to the discussion on the future of American Studies,1 this essay will use the concept of location as a marker for both the geographical limits and the disciplinary boundaries that are now being questioned.2 ← 173 | 174 →

Once we include the discussion on the meaning of the prefix “inter,” we also need to question the second term, America. Which America is at stake? Is it homage to Americo Vespucci or a reference to the gold of the Amerrique Mountains once visited by Vespucci and Columbus in Nicaragua?3 America has also been equated to the United States of America, an assumption that has been largely criticized.4 One possible way to avoid this semantic problem is to focus on geographical markers, requiring more specification about a particular area: South, Central, or North America. Again, even this subdivision is not enough to dissipate the problem because Mexico is often not included as part of North America, but rather seen as part of the Latin American culture, which is supposedly different from the Anglo-American culture of the United States and Canada. To avoid this problem I will use the term “Americas” as a reference to the whole continent.5

Thus far, I have asked questions about nomenclature and geographical categorization, but a discussion about culture is also necessary. By turning to the study of the cultures and traditions in the Americas, attention is brought to the difference between Anglo-American and Latin American. For instance, it is possible to see parts of Canada and the United States as forming a continuum that reveals the British colonial influence on Anglo-American culture. But, why not include Jamaica? Although the British influenced this country as much as the United States, we use a different marker in this case: Caribbean. There is a clear arbitrariness in our terms and categories.6 Similarly, the emphasis on Latin America has shed light on cultural differences and similarities among several areas and groups in the Americas (including parts of the United States)7 but has often forgotten the French part of Canada and Haiti, occluded the Caribbean, marginalized Brazil, and frozen sub-Artic or sub-Antarctic regions inhabited by distinct ethnic groups. How should we identify the archipelago in the Southern Patagonian coast: ← 174 | 175 → Malvinas, Malouines, or Falklands? This question has been answered in specific geopolitical terms and according to hegemonic interests.8 Thus, terms such as Cuban Studies, Canadian Studies, Brazilian Studies, and other areas have emerged as a way to identify cultures within the boundaries of a specific nation-state within the Americas.9

However, we also have disciplines addressing particular topics that transcend specific geographical borders, such as Gender Studies, Women’s Studies, Ethnic Studies, Race Studies, African American Studies, and other fields.10 Relying on these areas, I would like to center my attention upon one particular issue: the experience of peoples of African descent located and dislocated in the Americas as a particular point of study. This would allow me to transgress the strict borders of African American Studies as a discipline focused on the United States. Similarly, I will show how Latin American Studies has often neglected the African dimension in the Americas, despite many studies about slavery and racism. Only recently have there been studies on Afro-Latinos.11 Thus, defining people of African descent in the whole Americas as African Americans and considering their differentiated locations and perspectives would not only enlarge our framework but also offer complementary answers to recurring common problems related to slavery, racism, and the struggle for citizenship.

By considering the specific case of African Americans in different contexts and localities within the Americas, I understand Inter-American Studies as an interdisciplinary, international, and intercultural framework. Such a framework ← 175 | 176 → allows us to transcend boundaries, consider different places, recognize various cultures, and use plural approaches in the study of many historical and contemporary themes that seem isolated and disconnected.12 This process of recognizing different locations while articulating diverse experiences of dislocation of African Americans and the possibility of conceiving of “Inter-(African-Latin-)American” identities can be called an “experiment in interlocation.”

An Expanded Framework: Considering Diaspora, Syncretism, and Multiculturalism

If we recognize the slavery of Africans in many locations in the Americas as a key theme in the history of the continent, it is surprising that the debate on the very meaning of American Studies and Inter-American Studies rarely considers the situation of African Americans as something central. The African American experience has been subtly dislocated to the periphery of scholarly interest.13 We need to expand the framework used in these areas in order to call into question the boundaries of “national” locations and move towards what I define as inter-location, which shall shed light on what is being displaced, i.e. what does not fit into imposed narrow categories.

One concept that helps us to understand the African American experience is diaspora, a Greek word originally meaning “dispersion,” as in the case of seeds being thrown to all corners by the wind. After the persecution and dispersion of the Jewish people through the centuries, this term gained a social and political meaning, related to the search for a point of reference in time and space that would enable the affirmation of the Jewish collective identity.14 Today the word diaspora acquires a new meaning as we realize that the dispersion of Africans by a violent process of enslavement during the European colonization of the Americas still has an impact on their descendants. The term African American diaspora refers to ← 176 | 177 → Africans who were displaced and brought to the Americas, and to Americans who still search for a place, a location where they can express their identity. Therefore, diaspora can be understood as a process of dislocation.

Another term that has often been related to the African American experience is syncretism. This post-slavery concept has a biological connotation and was used together with the words hybridity, mestizaje, and miscegenation to imply an allegedly positive encounter and interaction among Native, African, and European cultures as well as the forging of a new multicultural identity in the “New World.” However, this new identity displaces and negates Natives, assimilates Africans in the diaspora, imposes one biological, historical, linguistic, or cultural ideal of a nation that remains Eurocentric and suspends the plural perspectives or claims of different groups and subjects. Therefore, in order to bring the neglected aspects of the African American experience to the surface it is necessary to question this emphasis on assimilation without losing sight of the inter-relations that take place among different groups. This questioning also implies recognizing the problems of categories limited to a nation-state.

Yet another concept is multiculturalism, a more recent attempt to integrate the African American experience while avoiding the problem of forced assimilation. This concept has a philosophical connotation that goes back to Georg Friedrich Hegel’s discussion of the “struggle for recognition” [Kampf um Anerkennung], which is based on the dialectical relationship between master and slave. Although Hegel defined this dialectics as a central question that emerges in modern societies,15 this issue remained forgotten for quite some time. Only recently we observe philosophical discussions on this topic by Charles Taylor, Axel Honneth, Jürgen Habermas and especially Iris Young and Charles Mills, among others, who included a reflection on non-assimilatory “inclusion” and recognition of oppression as a necessary complement to liberal politics.16 Progressively, these ideas are receiving wider attention, coming to orient new proposals for identity politics or ← 177 | 178 → politics of recognition, which in turn inspire new movements opposing racism and color-blindness while defending racial and cultural consciousness.17 Although multiculturalism was identified with Canada and Canadian Studies, this concept was also used to characterize the existence of several minority groups in the United States, polyethnic societies around the world, or multinational democracies in Europe.18 For our discussion, the relevance of this term is political, indicating the tension that arises in liberal democracies when one affirms the right to a cultural (African) identity within a particular (American) nation. As Kymlicka indicates in his discussion of this topic, the situation of African Americans is quite distinct: “In any event, most blacks do not have or want a distinct national identity. They see themselves as entitled to full membership in the American nation,” but at the same time they reject the assimilationist model that subsumed other ethnic groups into the national identity of the United States.19 In light of the African American experience in the United States and elsewhere in the Americas, the concept of multiculturalism becomes problematic and, therefore, it has been criticized as well.

Despite the shortcomings of the concepts mentioned above, it is still possible to retrieve a basic common condition that should be central to our framework of interpretation. In all cases, people experiencing dislocation are acknowledged to have a multiplicity of experiences, with possible inter-relations among them, as exemplified in the multifarious perspectives on African American history. This implicit plurality represents an alternative to diasporic dislocation, as well as to assimilation through syncretism, and lack of interactions among different parts. The focus on plurality could function as an antidote to the singular reductionist model of nation and contradict ideas such as “melting pot,” “racial democracy,” and other terms that reduce African Americans to a given national boundary. Therefore, an important task in the process of discussing the possibility of developing “Inter-(African-Latin-)American” perspectives in Inter-American Studies and highlighting interlocation is to consider how African and African American elements have been negated and neglected in certain areas of study, only to emerge in others. For instance, many topics and themes have appeared within discussions on African American identity in Anglo America and resurfaced in Latin America. Thus, scholars began to study the African diaspora in different locations in South America, to recognize the importance of themes such as syncretism and mestizaje ← 178 | 179 → in several countries, to compare the multicultural experiences in places like the United States and Brazil, and thus to identify the connection among different African American experiences. This indicates not only the “dislocation” of peoples and meanings, but also their “trans-location,” which generates new meanings.20 Thus, a simple semantic shift can lead to changes in several directions.

Recognizing this trans-location is important,21 but not enough. We need a plural approach that recognizes different cultures, identities, and discourses located peripherally, which are not only in confrontation or contrast with a given center, but also in a complementary relation to each other. Thus, what could be defined as external locations needs to be assessed in a multifarious way and measured in relation to the internal discourses and local actors who establish inter-relations and transcend previous limits and borders. We need a wider framework beyond certain approaches that rely too heavily on categories bound to a nation-state. Inter-American Studies has the potential to become this wider framework if we are able to acknowledge various forms of understanding the “local” (as a place, as a symbol, as a culture and so on) being able to subvert the imposition of hegemonic categories, to observe exchanges beyond localities, and to promote a more intensive form of interaction at different levels (including the level of theoretical observation and conceptual elaboration). It is at this point that the connector “inter” becomes relevant. Besides the local dimension, we also need to consider the inter-locality or inter-location of the African American experience, similar to what Bhabha defines as being “in between,” always on the move. In this way, we can also account for the spatiality and critical geopolitical aspects of our inter-personal, inter-national, inter-cultural, and inter-geographical relations.

The framework I am proposing here considers the inter-location of cultures and discourses as well as their possible communication. This should enable us to criticize the imposition of one single biological, historical, linguistic, or cultural marker that negates plurality while exploring ways of using the tools of academic fields such as American Studies, African American Studies, Caribbean Studies, Latin American Studies, and Brazilian Studies to understand the plurality of African American experiences in the Americas. Conversely, I will use the African ← 179 | 180 → American experience as a common denominator connecting different contexts and highlighting problems related to Inter-American Studies.

A Plural View of African American Studies: The Inter-African American Experience

Thus far, I have worked in two steps. First, I questioned the fallacious equation of the United States with “America” and the reduction of African American Studies to the research on people of African descent in this particular country. Moreover, I suggested that we speak more generally about “the Americas” and include the plurality of peoples, spaces and locations that can then be articulated in terms of inter-location. Secondly, I defined this inter-location in terms of a wider framework that allows for plural interactions, so that we can consider the African American experience not simply as a reference to African American Studies in the United States, but in terms of a polyphony of commonalities and differences in relation to various contexts in the Americas. In a third step, I want to provide examples pointing towards an Inter-(African-Latin-)American perspective. In the same way one defines African Americans (as referring to the United States), there are also Afro-Cubans and Afro-Brazilians, but less emphasis is placed on Afro-Haitians or Afro-Canadians. To avoid problems with such nomenclatures, we can insist on the term African Americans as both applicable to the whole context of the Americas and specific to particular locations.

Rather than presenting and discussing empirical details about these specific locations here,22 my goal is to explore the possibility of articulating such examples beyond the mere comparison of singularities. For example, the case of African Americans in Cuba is not simply an interesting sociological fact to be distinguished from the demographic fate of African Americans in Argentina.23 Rather, ← 180 | 181 → both are particular aspects of a wider structural element. If in the nineteenth century, this common structural element was slavery and in the twentieth century, it was institutional racism, we now have different issues at work that can be better grasped by an “Inter-(African-Latin-)American” perspective. Although specific cases could be studied by considering historic elements and recent trends in African American Studies in Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Jamaica, Uruguay, or Venezuela and other countries, an Inter-American framework would go beyond the particularities of these cases to explore the importance of interactions. The importance of the preposition “inter” is that it helps us to understand the routes of exchanges between Africa and the Americas, the different locations where the impact of these exchanges was felt, the mutual influences that occur because of these exchanges, and the transformations they underwent and continue to undergo. Therefore, providing examples of these interactions can help us explore this possibility.

a) African American Studies in the United States

Black Studies and (later) African American Studies were one of the first disciplines to question the supremacy of American Studies and its neglect of alternative voices and locations.24 However, African American Studies is now a contested terrain as well, criticized for being limited to an Anglophone perspective, although it has recently been applied to Latin American and Caribbean contexts. In a text for a special issue of The Americas, “Introduction: Africa (Black) Diaspora History, Latin American History,” Ben Vinson III addresses this issue. Writing in 2006, he notices not only a reinvigoration of Black Studies in the past several years, but also the emergence of concepts such as diaspora, Black Atlantic, and others that also affected the historiography of Latin America.25 Another example can be found in the field of literature, which began to include slave narratives, women’s voices, and the experiences of workers, youth, and communities as objects of their studies. Similarly, a new field began to emerge in Latin American Studies, focusing on Afro-Hispanic language, poetry, and literature.26 Let us briefly review this process. ← 181 | 182 →

One of the founding elements of African American Studies in the United States is the research on slavery. Although this same topic has been studied from the perspective of history, economics, sociology, and many other disciplines, one of the contributions of African American Studies in the United States was to focus on narratives that provide a direct account of this period. It is not surprising, therefore, that many studies started with Frederick Douglass’ writings in order to reveal how his political practices and personal reflections deal with issues of emancipation and recognition that go beyond his individual experience and affect the lives of many African Americans in the United States.27

Douglass represents the first African American modernist figure in the context of the United States, a former slave who coined his new post-slave surname from a literary work (Sir Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake) and insisted on the need to supplant the archaic institution represented by the plantation. Douglass’ own narrative provides elements that are not necessarily geopolitical, but rather related to collective psychology. As Gates has shown, even with his successful life as writer and politician, Douglass was still searching for the Self at the end of his life, since he did not know his real name or birthday.28 This points to yet another meaning of dislocation.

Although this kind of research was foundational in the establishment of African American Studies, it was immediately expanded in at least three ways. First, there emerged a backward-looking archeological process of revealing earlier forms of slave narratives. These narratives do not only constitute a genre, but also a rich source of information on social, economic, political, and cultural slave practices.29 ← 182 | 183 → Second, many researchers followed the case of Douglass as a prototype of key individual figures in the history of the United States, role-models who were able to express their views at key moments of the history of the United States, such as Martin Delany, Richard Wright, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, Alain Locke, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr., among many others.30 The importance of this research is undeniable, but the fact that this list includes only “men” became evident as well. Therefore, third, new studies began to focus on the role of women, groups (such as youth, workers, churches, etc.) and other social actors that had previously been disregarded. The lack of studies on Black women was much criticized. As Angela Davis states in a seminal article on this topic, “The paucity of literature on the black woman is outrageous on its face. Nevertheless, we must also contend with the fact that too many of these rare studies must claim as their signal achievement the reinforcement of fictitious clichés. They have given credence to grossly distorted categories through which the black woman continues to be perceived.”31

These examples show some internal challenges within the field of African American Studies in the United States. Yet another challenge would be more external: How to relate these discussions to the experiences of African Americans elsewhere? One danger is to affirm that these issues are essential to any African American experience. The other danger is to insist on the locality and relativity of particular ineffable experiences. Yet the question above shows a limitation within African American Studies and points to the alternatives opened up by the concept of “Black Atlantic.”

b) The Black Atlantic

Even if the focus on Anglophone scholarship could be justified as a necessary side effect of a social division of labor, it is undeniable that the English-speaking Caribbean and Canada were disconnected from the reflections on the African American experience in the Americas. In his book The Black Atlantic,32 Gilroy ← 183 | 184 → helps us establish an interesting basic structure or framework that could allow us to move beyond the national scope and relate different aspects involved in the quest for an African identity in the meeting of cultures in the Americas and in Europe:

The specificity of the modern political and cultural formation I want to call the Black Atlantic can be defined, on one level, through [a] desire to transcend both the structures of the nation state and the constraints of ethnicity and national particularity. These desires are relevant to understanding political organizing and cultural criticism. They have always sat uneasily alongside the strategic choices forced on black movements and individuals embedded in national and political cultures and nation-states in America, the Caribbean, and Europe.33

Gilroy succeeds in rescuing neglected aspects in the historical reconstruction of the African influence upon North America and the Caribbean; in revealing the direct contacts of African Americans with European culture; in relating modernity and postmodernity to Cultural Studies and African Studies in Britain and in the United States; in stressing the role of Africa in the genealogy of modernity; in challenging both cynical Eurocentrism and naïve Afrocentrism at once; in establishing a cross-cultural and non-reductive space of interrelations between Africa, the Americas, and Europe – the “Black Atlantic”; in stressing communication and the artistic tradition in the diaspora as a non-geopolitical connecting element that binds these different contexts together; and in revealing the political implications of this process. The important point in Gilroy’s approach is that he shows how the search for identity remains present in diasporic movements across the board. As he observes commonalities among different contexts, he promotes a form of interlocation.34

Gilroy also explores other areas (such as sociology and literature) in his analysis of African American culture, broadly conceived. For example, the connections between the experiences of Jewish and African diasporas.35 In observing Douglass, DuBois, and others in their search for an original and inherently African time and space within the Americas, Gilroy arrives at a more general definition of diaspora as a “utopian eruption of space into the linear temporal order of modern black politics.”36 Negro Spirituals represent the tension between a politics of fulfillment and transfiguration. They are the best example of the connection and the parallel ← 184 | 185 → between African and Jewish diasporas. They also provide Gilroy with an extra element for his model of communication and his chronotope of ships in motion between Europe, the Americas, and Africa, since they suggest a dialectics of going in and out of given national boundaries that generates an intercultural exchange. In this way, the process of shaping African American identity can be seen more generally as confrontation and interaction with other cultures, compatible to what I defined as interlocation. Along these same lines, Homi Bhabha offers an interesting counterpoint and complement to Gilroy’s views as he stresses the “moments or processes that are produced in the articulation of cultural differences”37 and adds the spatial dimension of these encounters.38 Based on the discussion of The Black Atlantic we can see that symbolic forms have not only provided a reference of time and space for the affirmation of identity in the diaspora, but also supplied resources for African American resistance to assimilation and annihilation. However, there are also limits to this approach.

The reflection on Caribbean identity and its relationship to Europe, Africa, and the Americas is central to African American Studies because this is a multicultural context in which the majority of the population is of African ancestry.39 However, beyond the British and Dutch colonization we need to relate this discussion to French colonialism as well. The revolution and independence of Haiti is one of the first moments in which the tension between French and African elements arises in the Americas.40 This is an under-studied topic, although it has been the subject of reflection by Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, Édouard Glissant, and others who discussed the négritude movement, Antillanité, and créolité in relation to Africa and Europe.41 Moreover, these elements need to be related to Spanish America, a ← 185 | 186 → context that seems forgotten here as well.42 One point to be mentioned could be the similarities between the Southern United States, the Caribbean, and South America regarding the culture of the plantations43 and the different religious expressions, including Santería, Voodoo, and Candomblé.44 Another example would be the religious and musical traditions in Jamaica, which could be compared to Cuba and Argentina.45 Ifeoma Nwankwo’s book Black Cosmopolitanism: Racial Consciousness and Transnational Identity in the Nineteenth Century Americas, partially suggests ways to overcome the limits of the Black Atlantic approach by focusing on literary elements. She relies on slave narratives in the United States, Haiti, Cuba, and the West Indies to show how the search for identity and citizenship became a multinational quest for people of African descent in the Americas. She refers especially to a process after the Revolution in Haiti and includes interesting cross-references to Frederick Douglass, who served as the United States Consul to Haiti.46 However, we still lack a framework based upon which we can integrate and articulate different parallel experiences. In an attempt to move beyond these limits and at least refer to concomitant facts, we should turn our attention to Latin ← 186 | 187 → American Studies, bringing both the Caribbean and the Latin American dimension to the process of interlocation.47

c) Latin American Studies

After considering recent discussions on African American Studies in the United States, the debates on the “Black Atlantic,” and references to the Caribbean context, I will now expand our view of the Americas as a scenario upon which a continuous movement of interlocation occurs.48 Upon this base, I will attempt a historical reconstruction of Africans’ struggles for the inclusion and recognition in Spanish and Portuguese colonies in the Americas, which were later defined as Latin America.49 The term used to identify African Americans in this area is Afro-Latinos.50 An important task of this reconstruction is to avoid the limitations of certain geopolitical notions as well as the imposition of a single form of syncretism that contradicts plurality, systematically negates African elements, and does not open up venues for inter-relations.

In the Latin American context, the encounter and interaction among Native, African, and European cultures has been manipulated to either negate African elements or to assimilate them and forge a new “multicultural” identity for the sake of a nation-building process in the New World. If we consider this process in the Caribbean, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Brazil, and Uruguay, we can observe how this idea pervades the whole continent, albeit with different names and processes. The multicultural character of the American continent has been traditionally defined in slogans such as “racial democracy” in Brazil or “café con leche” in Venezuela, “mestizo society” in Colombia or “unidad de las razas” in Cuba, the new “cosmic ← 187 | 188 → race” in Mexico or “the meeting of cultures” elsewhere.51 What lies underneath all these terms is the assumption that mestizaje, miscegenation, hybridity, and the melting process of different races will bring about a newer and better people and nation.52 This is a form of syncretism that displaces Natives and assimilates Africans and other ethnic groups in the diaspora, imposing a single biological, historical, linguistic, or cultural ideal of nation that remains Eurocentric and disregards different groups and subjects.53

However, peoples of African descent in Latin America, or Afro-Latinos, can be observed in larger numbers in those countries that participated more actively in the slave trade and the Black Atlantic: Brazil, Cuba, Colombia, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela as well as specific regions of Ecuador, Honduras, Guatemala, Peru, and Uruguay. In each one of these locations, African Americans developed a distinct cultural identity. Therefore it seems scandalous to study Latin America without referencing the African diaspora, its impact, and the interactions it produced. Only recently has there emerged a steady publication of systematic studies on the African American population ← 188 | 189 → in these different regions.54 One interesting case is Cuba, for it brings together Spanish colonization, its location in the Caribbean, a high percentage of African Americans in the population, and the immigration of Cubans to the United States, among other factors.

Historically, it is impossible to refer to Cuba without mentioning José Martí. The reference to his name is important not only because of his pan-American vision of a “nuestra América” – which seems compatible with the idea of Inter-American Studies – but also because he experienced the continuous movement of a desterrado in the Americas, moving from country to country, searching for an ideal land or location. Such a land would be neither closed enough to become hermetically circumscribed by a limiting territorial jurisdiction nor naïvely open enough to become prey to the colonial and imperialist disrespect for sovereignty. This experience of desterritorialización, however, is not limited to his rebel and sensitive subjectivity, and not even particular to Cuba. This dislocation is a continuous experience in the Americas, in groups whose descendants are now spread throughout the Americas, questioning borders and markers that were arbitrarily imposed on them. Martí acknowledged this. However, he did not relate this aspect to the African American experience, but rather subsumed it under a political project, thus somewhat occluding the African dimension in Cuban culture. Echoing the ideology of syncretism, he said: “Cuban is more than white, more than ← 189 | 190 → mulatto, more than Negro.”55 Similar views were held by other political authorities who warned of a “black peril” — the danger of Cuba becoming a Black Republic like Haiti — and advocated the need to disregard race or be color-blind in the process of constructing a new nation. Recent scholarship has stressed that this foundational discourse, referred to as “the myth of racial equality,” imposed an ideological construction that negated Afro-Cuban identity.56 Despite the fact that the African American population had a profound impact on Cuban history and culture at the beginning of the 20th century, the Cuban government implemented a whitening process by promoting immigration from Spain and an ideology of “racial fraternity” and “unidad de las razas.” This would later be questioned by the Afro-Cuban movement and has been the subject of recent studies.57

If we take the case of peoples of African descent in Cuba as one important example of the African American experience in Spanish America and the Caribbean, new light is shed on a series of issues that escaped the perspective of African American Studies in the United States and the concept of Black Atlantic. For example, it brings to the surface the experience of Spanish colonialism, the interactions among different countries, the tensions between local American hopes and hegemonic European interests, and the perilous proximity to the historic revolution in Haiti. At the same time, the particular case of Cuba contributes to the study of the African experience in other contexts also. We can observe an interesting mixture of issues, including the slave trade that brought people from Yorubaland in West Africa to plantations in the Caribbean. There is an interaction between the mores and language that characterize, for example, the Latin American culture in Puerto Rico (as opposed to, say, Jamaica – where the reference is to British culture), and that of peoples of African descent within the immigrant Cuban community in the United States. These interactions can be studied, for example, in comparisons between religious expressions such as Santería in Cuba ← 190 | 191 → and Candomblé in Brazil. This also reminds us that Brazil is often disregarded in Latin American Studies because it was colonized by the Portuguese and could not be considered under the same categories that were used to study the different contexts within so-called Spanish America.

For decades, the Journal of Negro History published many studies on African Americans in Latin America. Nevertheless, in an article on “The Status of the Negro in Northern South America,” published in 1964, Randall Hudson complained that historians had “completely avoided identifying the Negro as a separate element in society. Unlike the Brazilians, who have written many studies on the influence of the Negro on Brazil, the studies produced in Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador relate only to slavery and abolition.”58 Four decades later, in 2006, Ben Vinson III would show a positive increment in research and publications dealing with Blackness and the African American experience in Latin America. Yet, he came to a similar conclusion: “Still, to the best of my knowledge, apart from Brazil, there were limited attempts to bridge the evolving diasporic discourse in Black Studies with emerging Latin American research on blackness.”59 These considerations give us an occasion to turn our attention to research on African Americans within Brazilian Studies.

d) Brazilian Studies

The African American experience in Brazil is similar, in many ways, to the cases of the United States and Cuba. In the same way as the term Afro-Latinos was used to highlight the particular situation of peoples of African descent in Latin America and Afro-Cuban was proposed to give visibility to African culture and influence in the Cuban community, the term Afro-Brazilian emerged in Brazil. These parallel developments provide a good case for an “Inter-(African-Latin-)American” perspective.

As in many other regions, slavery is the starting point of the African American experience in Brazil. Slavery brought ten times as many Africans to work in the regions once colonized by Portugal as to the parts colonized by Spain, France, ← 191 | 192 → Holland, and Britain.60 As a matter of fact, the displacement of Africans had already been explored earlier by Pierre Verger in his book Flux et Reflux de la traieté des Negres entre le Golfe de Benin et Bahia, du XVII au XIX siècle.61 The exact number of slaves who were brought from Africa or born in captivity is not known, and researchers have given various estimates ranging from 2,000,000 to 14,000,000. Rather than relying on numbers, however, our discussion can focus on examples of African American cultural expressions and forms of resistance against slavery and other forms of oppression that prompted the African and African American resistance in Brazil.

One early example of resistance is a series of maroon communities, quilombos, established deep in the jungle, to where the escaped slaves fled, especially in the Brazilian Northeast. The most famous of them was the “Palmares Quilombo” in the state of Pernambuco, whose leader was Zumbi. Forty runaway slaves formed Palmares in 1604 and resisted decades of constant attacks by the Dutch and the Portuguese, until their settlement was destroyed and Zumbi was killed on November 20, 1695.62 Similar to other movements that wanted to establish a political structure independent of the nation,63 the quilombos were considered an “African Republic” within Brazil and, therefore, could not be tolerated.64 ← 192 | 193 →

Another example, related to urban contexts, is the formation of brotherhoods of former slaves. In the cities, a slave could buy his or her liberty (Alforria). For this reason, many cities contained a population of former slaves that outnumbered those of European origin. One of the few forms of association allowed to these former slaves were the religious brotherhoods and sisterhoods. The fact that many rebellions occurred in Brazilian colonial cities between 1780 and 1840 such as the Revolution of Tailors (1798); the Inconfidence in Minas Gerais (1789), the Revolution in Pernambuco (1817) and the Rebellion of the Malês (1835), indicates that these groups of Afro-Brazilians in urban settings were not merely members of religious groups but important part of an organized structure of resistance that involved a great number of individuals.65 Observing these events from an Inter-American perspective would yield important information about revolutionary efforts, for similar events occurred all through the Americas decades before the revolution in Haiti.66 However, even though these rebellions involved different groups such as the bourgeoisie, workers, and slaves in the fight for independence, in the end those of African descent were left out of the nation-building process. Thus, in Cuba and elsewhere, the nation-building process enforced assimilation through miscegenation, hybridity, and syncretism as forms of “whitening” the country.67 Similarly, when emancipated slaves at the end of the nineteenth century had to find their place vis-à-vis an exclusivist Brazilian nationality, they had two ← 193 | 194 → options: either separatism, as they turned to a utopian “African nation” (after having lost their connections to the African continent) or assimilation into the Brazilian syncretic model.

The third example of a strategy used by Afro-Brazilians to resist different forms of oppression can be seen in a new religion, which was a fictional way of establishing an imaginary location, an ideal African context within the Brazilian context. Because African culture was not taken as constitutive part of the nation-building process, and the negation of African identity and culture was implicit in the process of constructing a national identity in Brazil, African culture could survive mainly in a mythical niche occupied by this new religion: Candomblé. Based mostly on Yoruba cosmology,68 African religious beliefs persisted as one of the most influential West African worldviews in the New World and survived within the Catholic Church.69 Finally, the terreiros de candomblé were segregated and limited to suburban areas. This actually enabled Africans from different regions to organize themselves around their original language, religion, and culture in the periphery of society. Women were active participants in these associations, and it was three old ex-slave women who established the first terreiro de candomblé in the first half of the nineteenth century.

From a historical point of view – and according to the framework established at the outset – the quilombos, confrarias, and terreiros de candomblé represent three (rural, urban, suburban) ways of searching for the location of an African American identity in Brazil and of resistance to assimilation and reduction to a nationalist model at three different moments. The terreiro is a relevant example because it is a physical space, a consecrated location where rituals “take place” and people not only interact with each other, but also imagine an alternative African location. This particular experience is not isolated, but related to similar places in ← 194 | 195 → Haiti, the United States, Jamaica, and Cuba. From an Inter-American perspective, these strategies can be related to similar processes all over the Americas. Moreover, in all of these cases there is a dimension of spatiality at play, as the location of these forms of resistance is always in the periphery of society, a process that can be observed concomitantly in several places. This perspective, however, did not seem to have had a strong impact on Brazilian Studies.

The first studies on Afro-Brazilians relied on anthropological research and defended a cultural syncretism. As Sílvio Romero affirmed in a polemical tone, “[a]ll Brazilians are mestizos, if not in their blood, for sure in their ideas.”70 At the beginning of the twentieth century, the focus was on the scientific syncretism of the positivism promoted at military academies, which created scientific centers, museums, research institutes, and hospitals that turned to biological categories and concentrated their interest on the “racial question.” Disciplines at the turn of the century such as phrenology, eugenics, anthropometry, craniology, criminology, and ethnology followed Darwinist determinism to establish a hierarchy of the races and arrive at the synthesis of “racial perfectibility” through the Americas.71 Beyond this model, an alternative approach to the study of Afro-Brazilians emerged when Gilberto Freyre published Casa Grande & Senzala in 1933, a book in which he reconstructed the different aspects of Brazilian culture (food, health, climate, etc.) to see how they came to a synthesis in the “conciliation of the races.”72 Despite his emphasis on the “sexual ethics” that allowed such a mestizaje and led to ← 195 | 196 → the “racial democratization of the country,” and despite his sympathetic interpretation of the African influence in Brazil, he was later criticized by a whole generation of Marxist sociologists who questioned the idea of “racial democracy” and highlighted the exploitation of African Americans at the bottom of a class society.73

Still, the questioning of these assumptions required the consideration of and comparison to other contexts, but those conducting research in the field of what was later called Brazilian Studies still focused on nationalistic models that did not allow them to see the bigger picture. In this context, we can see the polemic relevance of the so-called Brazilianists, scholars who were funded by agencies in the United States to develop comparative studies in Brazil. One of the most important publications by Brazilianists, Thomas Skidmore’s Black into White, was one of the first studies to systematically review theories on “racial democracy,” show their implications, and question their assumptions. What is often forgotten, however, is the need to take into account a series of events related to the civil rights movement in the United States, which inspired Skidmore to question the widely held beliefs of many scholars on Brazil.74

This brief overview of the field of Brazilian Studies and the consideration of Afro-Brazilians within it is enough to highlight several aspects: First, the African American experience is marked by the challenge of slavery, but it is not limited to this historical event. Rather, challenges are renewed by new strategies and events that are often forgotten in contemporary studies. Secondly, we can also see the importance of interlocation here. What we see in Brazil is not only the dislocation of African Americans to the periphery, but also the dislocation of theoretical perspectives that force the comparison with other experiences that shed light on topics that do not seem to be caught by an internal view. Finally, we can observe an inter-American interaction of various elements (cultural, geographical, and political, among others), that result in a shift of perspective, such as the consideration ← 196 | 197 → of Afro-Brazilians through the lenses of the civil rights movement in the United States. This interlocation is both theoretical and practical because it refers to experiences that are not simply limited to Brazil, but need to be understood in a wider perspective across the Americas. This is what prompts us to go beyond the limits of Brazilian Studies and nationalist boundaries in search of an Inter-American framework of interpretation. The Brazilian case leads us back, therefore, to our initial considerations on Inter-American Studies.

What is Inter in Inter-American Studies?

In this essay, I have focused on the specific case of African Americans in several parts of the Americas and performed a brief tour through the continent. In this attempt at seeing the bigger picture that is often neglected, we can not only reflect on several locations that are generally seen in terms of nationalist categories, but also observe the different fields of study that center their attention on particular issues, themes, and geographies. Following recent discussions and questions concerning the limits, reach, and meaning of American Studies, it is possible to consider some key points that have emerged in African American Studies, the concept of the “Black Atlantic,” Caribbean Studies, Latin American Studies, and studies on Brazil. In each case, I hope to have shown not only the particularity of each area, but also its limitations as well as its complementarity with other fields of research. Although my attempt runs the risk of erasing boundaries and becoming vague or unspecified, I centered my attention on the African American experience and used this topic as the measure to guide our explorations.

I have also made a proposal for an Inter-American framework, with a set of criteria that would allow us to move in and out of these different areas of study and geographic contexts. While acknowledging the promises and perils of terms such as diaspora, syncretism, and multiculturalism, I decided to move beyond these categories and affirm the need for a plurality of voices and experiences. Thus, the test performed at each stage was based on a simple question: what had been forgotten or neglected when particular areas of study dealt with aspects of the African American experience throughout the continent? First, I pointed to the ambiguity of the very term “African American” and proposed to expand it, using it to refer to all of the Americas – although I eventually used terms such as Afro-Cubans and Afro-Brazilians. I also noticed that African American Studies has generated a series of important discussions focusing on slave narratives, individual and collective identities, and gender issues, a positive movement of inclusiveness that needs to be expanded to include the African American experience in other contexts. Similar considerations led to a discussion of the concept of the “Black Atlantic” and its ← 197 | 198 → application to highlight the continuous diasporic movement of African Americans between different locations. In reconstructing these journeys, however, I observed the need for more archeological work to rescue lost connections.

This alone would be a good argument in favor of the need for a wider framework to guide interactive studies and more communication among disciplines. The diagnostics is simple: There is information available, there is archeological and genealogical evidence, there are vestiges of previous interactions, but the urge for specialization and a concomitant focus on very specific topics or national markers blocks the possibility of communication and the perception of wider systemic structures at play. In each case, it was possible to detect problems in narrowing structures and promises in interactions. Thus, I conclude that it is possible and necessary to search for a wider framework such as the one proposed here in terms of an Inter-American perspective.

Nonetheless, we should not limit our attention to these examples. Going beyond the focus on North America and the Caribbean and applying this same Inter-American framework, we can ask the same questions again and detect missing elements in many other fields. In the same way the role of Haiti and its revolution has been neglected for decades – as the fate of that country is seen as an isolated event disconnected from similar events in Ecuador, Cuba, the United States, and Uruguay – we also find many Afro-Cuban elements neglected that have been coming to light only recently. Similarly, only recently have we seen a few discussions on Afro-Latinos, a field that will certainly emerge as an important area of research to shed new light on the history and contemporary situation of African Americans in what was once called Spanish America. For sure, much of this awakening is the result of the application of new categories developed in the United States with the emergence of African American Studies. However, studies on Afro-Latinos in all of the Americas should also influence the way African American Studies are performed in the United States. This is especially relevant in the context of recent waves of immigration and the growing importance of Latinos and Latinas, Chicanos and Chicanas, as well as the so-called Hispanics and ethnic communities from other countries in the Americas that are now captured in data generated by the United States Census Bureau. This interaction will also illuminate the relations between the United States and Haiti in the 1800s, the liberating strategies exercised by Simón Bolivar in what was once seen as “one America,” the connections between the United States and Brazil in the slave trade, the roles of slaves and former slaves at revolutionary moments, and the persistence of conditions of poverty, exploitation, and segregation in several locations. Moreover, events such as the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States certainly generated other possible connections that need to be studied. ← 198 | 199 →

Finally, I related this discussion to African American Studies in Brazil. In showing the practical example of quilombos, confrarias, and terreiros de candomblé, I argued that the actualization of the struggle against racism in different stages, presupposes a construction and reconstruction of non-reductive spaces and locations in particular contexts. This, however, is not particular to Brazil, but similar to other places in the Americas where African Americans experienced the diaspora as a process of displacement, were exploited by the practices of slavery, were forced to become assimilated by the strategies of syncretism, and still struggle for recognition and citizenship. From a theoretical point of view, we could also show the limits of studies that focus on Afro-Brazilians but see them within the boundaries of national perspectives.

These cases and examples offer good justifications for an Inter-American framework and perhaps even a defense of Inter-American Studies. If we focus on the African American experience and use this wider framework, what comes into view is the displacement, appropriation, and non-recognition of claims that reveal any connection with Africa – because they appear to contradict what is considered American – anywhere, from Argentina to Canada. Thus, an Inter-American framework expands our views of the African American experience. Similarly, an African American perspective that is informed by a reflection on the diaspora, syncretism, and multiculturalism makes us aware of the need to uphold plurality and may influence the definition of Inter-American Studies. The issue is no more the affirmation of a pure identity and culture in terms of ethnicity, nationality, or race, but the coming in and out of different spaces and locations that can be understood as simultaneous and interactive.

Taken in its broader aspects, Inter-American Studies may become a powerful interdisciplinary tool that brings together historical, literary, artistic, linguistic, anthropological, and philosophical issues at once and is not limited to questions of individual and national identity. The focus on the African American experience, in turn, is a good test case to evaluate the applicability of this tool.

Conclusion: An Experiment in Interlocation

There is no doubt that the African American experience in the Americas is a case of constant dislocation – in the widest sense of the term. This creates great difficulties for American Studies, especially if this field is understood in its traditional fashion and focused on one specific geographical location. One of the greatest challenges in studying the African American experience is the fact that the focus of study is a moving target that transcends boundaries and refuses to become assimilated. What I tried to show is that American Studies alone does not seem to be ← 199 | 200 → able to capture the variety of issues at play in this constant movement. Similarly, Brazilian Studies seems to fail in this same task. These fields certainly provide important insights and complementary information, but still miss the interactions that occur among displaced subjects, beyond given borders. The attempt to use an Inter-American framework to capture the neglected or unseen elements of the African American experience appears, therefore, as a great research opportunity. Inter-American Studies could help us to understand what happens “in between” and connect the dispersed, diasporic locations. This attempt is what I call an experiment in interlocation that connects American, African, and Latin American elements.

When we evaluate these approaches, it becomes clear that a process of complementary and mutual criticism is possible, provided that these different discourses are recognized and related to a wider framework that transcends their previous limitations and borders without losing sight of the real interlocutors. This is neither a focus on the location of culture nor simply a trans-location that shifts meanings, subjects, and events, displacing them to other locations. The emphasis here is on the connector “inter,” which becomes relevant as an important practical element that complements the theoretical aspect of Inter-American Studies. Besides the local and the trans-local, we need to acknowledge interlocation as the insertion of different American identities and discourses in between these different elements, interstices, and spaces. These insertions need to make sense of other types of relations and interactions that can be interpersonal, international, intercultural and interesting, instead of being limited by old geopolitical markers.

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Torres, A. and Whitten Jr., N., eds. Blackness in Latin America and the Caribbean: Social Dynamics and Cultural Transformations, Volume 2: Eastern South America and the Caribbean. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998.

Townsend, C. “‘Half My Body Free, The Other Half Enslaved’: The Politics of the Slaves of Guayas at the End of the Colonial Era.” Colonial Latin American Review 7.1 (1998): 105–128.

Twine, F.W. and Warren, J., eds. Racing Research, Researching Race: Methodological Dilemmas in Critical Race Studies. New York: New York University Press, 2000.

Verger, P. Flux et Reflux de la traieté des Negres entre le Golfe de Benin et Bahia, du XVII au XIX siècle. Paris: Mouton, 1968.

Verger, P. Orixás: Deuses Iorubás na África e no Novo Mundo. Salvador: Corrupio, 1981.

Vinson III, B., guest ed. “Special Issue: The African Diaspora in the Colonial Andes.” The Americas 63.1 (July 2006).

Vinson III, B. and King, S. “Introducing the ‘New’ African Diasporic Military History in Latin America.” Special issue of the Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History 5.2 (2006).

Wade, P. Blackness and Race Mixture: The Dynamics of Race Mixture in Colombia. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993.

Walker, D. No More, No More: Slavery and Cultural Resistance in Havana and New Orleans. Minneapolis (MN): University of Minnesota Press, 2004.

Wasserstein, B. Vanishing Diaspora: The Jews in Europe since 1945. Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press, 1996.

Whitten, N. and Torres, A., eds. Blackness in Latin America and the Caribbean. Bloomington (IN): Indiana University Press, 1998.

Wise, G. “‘Paradigm Dramas’ in American Studies: A Cultural and Institutional History of the Movement.” American Quarterly 31.3 (1979): 293–337.

Wright, W.R. Café con Leche: Race, Class, and National Image in Venezuela. Austin (TX): University of Texas Press, 1990.

Young, I. Justice and the Politics of Difference. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990.

1 See, for instance, Pease, D. and Wiegman, R. (eds.), The Futures of American Studies, Durham, Duke University Press, 2002. Fitz, E., Rediscovering the New World: Inter-American Literature in a Comparative Context, Iowa City, University of Iowa Press, 1991.

2 On “location,” see the contrast between Wise, G., “‘Paradigm Dramas’ in American Studies: A Cultural and Institutional History of the Movement,” in American Quarterly, Vol. 31, Number 3 (1979), pp. 293–337, and Maddox, L. (ed.), Locating American Studies: The Evolution of a Discipline, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999 on the one hand. On the other, see Bhabha, H., The Location of Culture, New York, Routledge, 1994, and Mignolo, W., Local Histories/Global Designs: Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges, and Border Thinking, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2000. These are different ways of affirming the classical hermeneutical point according to which one’s situation in a particular place informs one’s practices and theories.

3 See George C. Hurlbut (1888), “The Origin of the Name ‘America,’” in Journal of the American Geographical Society of New York, 20, pp. 183–196.

4 Among key publications on this issue, see Pease, D., National Identities and Post-Americanist Narratives, Durham (NC), Duke University Press, 1994; Rowe, J.C. (ed.), Post-National American Studies, Berkeley (CA), University of California Press, 2000; Kaplan, A., The Anarchy of Empire, Cambridge (MA), Harvard Univesity Press, 2002.

5 On this, see McClennen, S., “Inter-American Studies or Imperial American Studies?,” in Comparative American Studies. An International Journal, Vol. 3(4), 2005, pp. 393–413.

6 DeGuzmán, M., Spain’s Long Shadow: The Black Legend, Off-Whiteness, and Anglo-American Empire, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 2005.

7 Mignolo, W., The Idea of Latin America, Malden (MA), Blackwell, 2005. See also Mendieta, E., Global Fragments: Latinamericanisms, Globalizations, Critical Theory, Albany (NY), State University of New York Press, 2007.

8 In the eighteenth century, Thomas Jefferson used the term British America to refer to the colonies seeking independence from Britain. See A Summary View of the Rights of British America, Monticello, The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, 1993 [Monticello Monograph Series].

9 On the problem of focusing American Studies and Latin American Studies on the nation-state, with a special emphasis on literature, see Porter, C., “What We Know that We Don’t Know: Remapping American Literary Studies,” in American Literary History, Vol. 6(3), 1994, pp. 467–526; and Levander, C. and Levine, R., “Introduction: Hemispheric American Literary History,” in American Literary History, Vol. 18(3), 2006, pp. 397–405.

10 For a discussions of this issue see McClennen, S., “Area Studies Beyond Ontology: Notes on Latin American Studies, American Studies, and Inter-American Studies,” in A – Contra corriente. A Journal on Social History and Literature in Latin America, Vol. 5, No. 1, Fall 2007, pp. 173–184.

11 See Andrews, G.R., “Afro-Latin America: The Late 1900s,” in Journal of Social History, Vol. 28 (2), Winter 1994, pp. 363–379, and Afro-Latin America: 1800–2000, New York, Oxford University Press, 2004.

12 An important initiative in this regard is Gerald Horne’s study, The Deepest South: The United States, Brazil, and the African Slave Trade, New York, New York University Press, 2007. As Horne states on the first page: “This book argues that U.S. slavery is better understood in hemispheric terms – the Slave South sought in an alliance with Brazil a formidable hedge against a future relationship to the North.”

13 For similar issues in other areas of academic research see Twine, F.W. and Warren, J. (eds.), Racing Research, Researching Race: Methodological Dilemmas in Critical Race Studies, New York, New York University Press, 2000.

14 See for example Wasserstein, B., Vanishing Diaspora: The Jews in Europe since 1945, Cambridge (MA), Harvard University Press, 1996.

15 Hegel, G.F., Werke, Frankfurt, Suhrkamp, 1979.

16 Taylor, Ch., Hegel and Modern Society, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1979, and Taylor, Ch. et al., Multiculturalism and The Politics of Recognition, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1992. Honneth, A., Kampf um Anerkennung, Frankfurt, Suhrkamp, 1992, pp. 154ff.; Habermas, J., Der philosophische Diskurs der Moderne, Frankfurt, Suhrkamp, 1985. On Hegel and Habermas, see Baynes, K., “Freedom and Recognition in Hegel and Habermas,” in Philosophy and Social Criticism, Vol. 28(1), 2002, pp. 1–17. Young, I., Justice and the Politics of Difference, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1990. Mills, Ch., The Racial Contract, Ithaca (NY), Cornell University Press, 1997.

17 See Kymlicka, W. Multicultural Citizenship, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1995, Appiah, A. and Gutmann, A., Color Conscious: The Political Morality of Race, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996.

18 See Kymlicka, W. Multicultural Citizenship, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1995, pp. 11–25.

19 Ibid., p. 25.

20 One example of this process is the immigration of Black workers from the United States to Guatemala between the 1880s and 1910s, who may have returned to the United States in 1990s as Guatemalan immigrants. See Opie, F.D., “Black Americans and the State in Turn-of-the-Century Guatemala,” in The Americas, Vol. 64(4) April 2008, pp. 583–609.

21 Mignolo, W., Local Histories/Global Designs: Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges, and Border Thinking, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2000.

22 For studies on different perspectives on African American Studies in the whole Americas which rely on concepts of diaspora, multiculturalism, and other plural perspectives, see Chambers, D., “Ethnicity in the Diaspora: The Slave-Trade and the Creation of African ‘Nations’ in the Americas,” in Slavery & Abolition, 22:3 (2001), pp. 25–39; Hall, G. Slavery and African Ethnicities in the Americas: Restoring the Links, Chapel Hill (NC), University of North Carolina Press, 2005; Heywood, L. (ed.), Central Africans and Cultural Transformations in the American Diaspora, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2002; Franklin, J.H., “On the Evolution of Scholarship in Afro American History,” in Clark Hine, D. (ed.), The State of Afro-American History, Baton Rouge (LA), Louisiana State University Press, 1986, pp. 13–22.

23 See George Reid Andrews, The Afro-Argentines of Buenos Aires: 1800–1900, Madison (WI), University of Wisconsin Press, 1980.

24 See Daniel, Ph., “Black Studies: Discipline or Field of Study?,” in The Western Journal of Black Studies 4 (Fall 1980): 195–99. Norment, N. (ed.), The African American Studies Reader, Durham (NC), Carolina Academic Press, 2001.

25 Vinson III, B. (guest ed.), “Special Issue: The African Diaspora in the Colonial Andes,” in The Americas, Vol. 63 (1), July 2006.

26 Afro-Hispanic denotes a language, not an ethnic category. Examples of studies in this area can be seen in Lewis, M., Afro-Hispanic Poetry 1940–1980: From Slavery to “Negritud” in South American Verse, Columbia (MO), University of Missouri Press, 1983, who collects texts by African American authors in several countries, from Colombia to Uruguay. See Jackson, Shirley M., “Afro-Hispanic Literature: A Valuable Cultural Resource,” in Foreign Language Annals, Vol. 11 (1978), pp. 421–25. This has led to an increasing interest in and definition of Afro-Latin Culture. Jackson, Richard L., Black Writers and Latin America: Cross-Cultural Affinities, Washington (DC), Howard University Press, 1998.

27 Douglass, F. The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass [edited by Ph. Foner], New York, International Publishers, 1854/1950.

28 Gates Jr., H., Figures in Black: Words, Signs and the ‘Racial Self’, New York, Oxford University Press, 1985, pp. 98ff.

29 Henry Gates Jr. has developed a whole project on slave narratives. Aptheker was one of the first to write on maroon communities in South and North Carolina, Virginia, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama. See Aptheker, H., American Negro Slave Revolts, New York, International Publishers,1963. Certainly, these studies also refer to the classic by Olaudah Equiano, published in 1789, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, the African, Written by Himself. New studies have dealt with the narrative and authenticity of this work.

30 See, for example, Delany, M., The Condition, Elevation, Emigration and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States, Politically Considered, Philadelphia, 1852; W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches, Chicago, A.C. McClurg & Co., 1903.

31 Davis, A., “Reflections on the Black Woman’s Role in The Community of Slaves,” in The Black Scholar Vol. 3, Number 4 (Dec. 1971), pp. 3–15, citation from p. 3. See also Davis, A., Women, Race, and Class, New York, Vintage, 1983.

32 Gilroy, P. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness, Cambridge (MA), Harvard University Press, 1993.

33 Ibid., p. 19.

34 Ibid., p. 37.

35 Gilroy, The Black Atlantic, pp. 205–217.

36 Ibid., p. 198.

37 Bhabha, H., The Location of Culture, p. 1, see pp. 40–52, 60–65.

38 Ibid., p. 30, where he quotes Gilroy, There Ain’t no Black in the Union Jack, London, Hutchinson, 1987, p. 214. Cf. Gilroy, The Black Atlantic, pp. 31–36.

39 For more details see Henry, P., Caliban’s Reason: Introducing Afro-Caribbean Philosophy, New York, Routledge, 2000; and Lewis, G., “Theorising Race and Racism in an Age of Disciplinary Decadence,” in Shibboleths: Journal of Comparative Theory, Vol. 1, Number 1 (2006), pp. 20–36.

40 The classic is James, C. L. R., The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution, New York, 1989. See also Dubois, L., A Colony of Citizens: Revolution and Slave Emancipation in the French Caribbean: 1787–1804, Chapel Hill (NC), University of North Carolina Press, 2003.

41 See Dash, J.M., “Farming Bones and Writing Rocks: Rethinking a Caribbean Poetics of (Dis)Location,” in Shibboleths: Journal of Comparative Theory, Vol. 1, Number 1 (2006), pp. 64–71.

42 Bowser, F., “The African in Colonial Spanish America: Reflections on Research Achievements and Priorities,” Latin American Research Review (LARR), Vol. 7, Number 1 (1972), pp. 77–94. See also Bennett, H., “The Subject in the Plot: National Boundaries in the History of the Black Atlantic,” in African Studies Review, Vol. 43, Number 1, 2000, pp. 101–24; Zeleza, P., “Rewriting the African Diaspora,” pp. 35–68; and Pier M. Larson, “African Diasporas and the Atlantic,” in Cañizares-Esguerra, G. and Seeman, E. (eds.), The Atlantic and Global History, New York, Prentice Hall, 2006; Torres, A. and Whitten Jr., N. (eds.), Blackness in Latin America and the Caribbean: Social Dynamics and Cultural Transformations, Volume 2: Eastern South America and the Caribbean, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1998.

43 Moreno Fraginals, M., “Plantations in the Caribbean: Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic in the Late Nineteenth Century,” in Shepherd, V.A. and Beckles, H. (eds.), Caribbean Slavery in the Atlantic World: A Student Reader, Princeton, Marcus Wiener Publishers, 2000, pp. 494–505.

44 See Narciso Hidalgo, “Las creencias de origen africano en el Nuevo Mundo,” in Afro-Hispanic Review, Spring 2007, Vol. 26(1), pp. 11–18. In their seminal works, Fernando Ortiz and Lydia Cabrera compare the many similarities between Cuba and Brazil, especially in terms of religion and myths.

45 Petras, E., Jamaican Labor Migration: White Capital and Black Labor: 1850–1930, Boulder (CO), Westview, 1988.

46 Nwankwo, I., Black Cosmopolitanism: Racial Consciousness, and Transnational Identity in the Nineteenth-Century Americas, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005.

47 This also applies to Florida, past and present. See Tepaske, J., “The Fugitive Slave: Intercolonial Rivalry and Spanish Slave Policy, 1687–1764,” in Proctor, S. (ed.), Eighteenth-Century Florida and Its Borderlands, Gainesville (FL), The University Press of Florida, 1975, pp. 1–12; Landers, J., “Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose: A Free Black Town in Spanish Colonial Florida,” in American Historical Review, Vol. 95(1), February 1990, pp. 9–30, and Black Society in Spanish Florida, Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1999.

48 For a comprehensive history of the African diaspora in the Americas, see Whitten, N. and Torres, A. (eds.), Blackness in Latin America and the Caribbean, Bloomington (IN), Indiana University Press, 1998.

49 Rout, L., The African Experience in Spanish America: 1502 to the Present Day, London, Cambridge University Press, 1976.

50 Andrews, G.R., Afro-Latin America: 1800–2000, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2004.

51 See Butler, K., Freedoms Given, Freedoms Won: Afro-Brazilians in Post-Abolition São Paulo and Salvador, New Brunswick (NJ), Rutgers University Press, 1998; Sheriff, R., Dreaming Equality: Color, Race, and Racism in Urban Brazil, New Brunswick (NJ), Rutgers University Press, 2001; Helg, A., Liberty and Equality in Caribbean Colombia: 1770–1835, Chapel Hill (NC), University of North Carolina Press, 2004; Howard, D., Coloring the Nation: Race and Ethnicity in the Dominican Republic, Boulder (CO), Lynne Rienner, 2001; Wright, W.R., Café con Leche: Race, Class, and National Image in Venezuela, Austin (TX), University of Texas Press, 1990; Wade, P., Blackness and Race Mixture: The Dynamics of Race Mixture in Colombia, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993; and Bennett, H., Africans in Colonial Mexico: Absolutism, Christianity and Afro-Creole Consciousness: 1570–1640, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003.

52 Martinez-Eschazabal, L., “Mestizaje and the Discourse of National/Cultural Identity in Latin America: 1845–1959,” in Latin American Perspectives, Vol. 25(3), May 1998, pp. 21–42.

53 Nascimento, A., “African (Latin) American Identities in Conflict,” in Peace Review (December 1997), pp. 489–496; Nascimento, A. and Sathler, J., “Black Masks on White Faces: Liberation Theology and the Quest for Syncretism in the Brazilian Context,” in E. Mendieta, L. Lorentzen, D. Batstone & Hopkins, D. (eds.), Liberation Theology and Postmodernity in the Americas, London, Routledge, 1997, pp. 95–122; and Review of Gracia, J., Latin/Hispanic Identity (Blackwell) in Manuscrito (2000), pp. 205–217.

54 See Díaz, M.E., The Virgin, the King, and the Royal Slaves of El Cobre: Negotiating Freedom in Colonial Cuba, 1670–1780, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2000; de la Fuente, A., A Nation For All: Race, Inequality, and Politics in Twentieth-Century Cuba, Chapel Hill (NC), University of North Carolina Press, 2001; Restall, M. (ed.), Beyond Black and Red: African-Native Relations in Colonial Latin America, Albuquerque (NM), University of New Mexico Press, 2005; Vinson III, B. and King, S., “Introducing the ‘New’ African Diasporic Military History in Latin America,” special issue, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, Vol. 5, Number 2 (2006); Sweet, J., Recreating Africa: Culture, Kinship, and Religion in the African-Portuguese World: 1441–1770, Chapel Hill (NC), University of North Carolina Press, 2003; Herrera, R., Natives, Europeans, and Africans in Sixteenth-Century Santiago de Guatemala, Austin (TX), University of Texas Press, 2003; Falola, T. and Childs, M. (eds.), The Yoruba Diaspora in the Atlantic World, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2004; Walker, D., No More, No More: Slavery and Cultural Resistance in Havana and New Orleans, Minneapolis (MN), University of Minnesota Press, 2004; Aguirre, C., Agentes de su propia libertad: Los esclavos de Lima y la desintegración de la esclavitud: 1821–1854, Lima, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, Fondo Editorial, 1993. Moreover, see Howard, D., Coloring the Nation: Race and Ethnicity in the Dominican Republic, Boulder (CO), Lynne Rienner, 2001; and Sagás, E., Race and Politics in the Dominican Republic, Gainesville (FL), University of Florida Press, 2001.

55 De la Fuente, A., “Race, National Discourse, and Politics in Cuba: An Overview,” in Latin American Perspectives, Vol. 25.3 (May 1998), pp. 43–69, and “Race and Inequality in Cuba: 1899–1981,” in Journal of Contemporary History 30 (1995), pp. 131–168.

56 Helg, A., Our Rightful Share: The Afro-Cuban Struggle for Equality: 1886–1912, Chapel Hill (NC), University of North Carolina Press, 1995; Kutzinski, V., Sugar’s Secret: Race and the Erotics of Cuban Nationalism, Charlottesville (VA), University Press of Virginia, 1993.

57 Moore, R., Nationalizing Blackness: Afro-Cubanismo and Artistic Revolution in Havana, 1920–1940, Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1997. See also Anderson, Th., “Inconsistent Depictions of Afro-Cubans and Their Cultural Manifestations in the Early Poetry of Marcelino Arozarena,” in Afro-Hispanic Review (Fall 2008), 9–44.

58 Hudson, R., “The Status of the Negro in Northern South America: 1820–1860,” in The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 49, No. 4 (Oct., 1964), pp. 225–239, citation from p. 226.

59 Vinson III, B. and King, S., “Introducing the ‘New’ African Diasporic Military History in Latin America,” special issue, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, Vol. 5:2 (2006), p. 11.

60 Curtin, R., The Atlantic Slave Trade: A Census, Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, 1969, p. 268. There is an ongoing discussion about the underestimated numbers of the slave trade in Brazil. See Horne, G., The Deepest South: The United States, Brazil, and the African Slave Trade, New York, New York University Press, 2007, p. 28.

61 Verger, P., Flux et Reflux de la traieté des Negres entre le Golfe de Benin et Bahia, du XVII au XIX siècle, Paris, Mouton, 1968. See also Verger, P., Orixás: Deuses Iorubás na África e no Novo Mundo, Salvador, Corrupio, 1981.

62 Freitas, D., Palmares: A Guerra dos Escravos, Rio de Janeiro, Ed. Movimento, 1982. For a general view see Chiavenato, J., O Negro Brasileiro: Da Senzala à Guerra do Paraguay, Sao Paulo, Brasiliense, 1987, especially p. 57. See also Kent, R. K., “Palmares: An African State in Brazil,” in Journal of African History, no. 6 (1965), pp. 161–175; Schwartz, S., Slaves, Peasants, and Rebels: Reconsidering Brazilian Slavery, Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1992; and Anderson, R., “The Quilombo of Palmares: A New Overview of a Maroon State in Seventeenth-Century Brazil,” in Journal of Latin American Studies, Vol. 28, No. 3 [Brazil: History and Society] (Oct., 1996), pp. 545–566.

63 Cf. Nascimento, A., “Quilombismo: The African Brazilian Road to Socialism,” in Asante, M.K. & Asante, K.W. (eds.), African Culture: The Rhythms of Unity, Westport (CT), Greenwood Press, 1985.

64 Much has been written and much research is yet to be done on this theme, especially with an analytical differentiation between cangaço, quilombo and many messianic movements. See Queiroz, M.V., Messianismo e Conflito Social, Sao Paulo, Atica, 1981; Monteiro, D.T., Os Errantes do Novo Século, Sao Paulo, Duas Cidades, 1974; Martins, J.S., Os Camponeses e a Política no Brasil, Petrópolis, Vozes, 1983.

65 Reis, J.J., Rebelião Escrava no Brasil: A História do Levante do Malês: 1835, Sao Paulo, Brasiliense, 1987. In the night of January 24, 1835, hundreds of slaves took to the streets of Salvador and were repressed by the police, in the largest slave rebellion ever to happen in the Americas. According to contested official numbers, seventy slaves were killed and fifty more were severely punished.

66 See, for instance, Genovese, E., From Rebellion to Revolution: Afro-American Slave Revolts in the Making of the Modern World, Baton Rouge (LA), Louisiana State University Press, 1979; Geggus, D. P., “Slave Resistance in the Spanish Caribbean in the Mid-1790s,” in Gaspar, D.B. and Geggus, D.P. (eds.), A Turbulent Time: The French Revolution and the Greater Caribbean, Bloomington (IN), Indiana University Press, 1997; and Townsend, C., “ ‘Half My Body Free, The Other Half Enslaved’: The Politics of the Slaves of Guayas at the End of the Colonial Era,” in Colonial Latin American Review 7, no. 1 (1998), pp. 105–128.

67 See Rodrigues, N., Os Africanos no Brasil [1904], Brasília, ed. Universidade de Brasília, 1988. For a description, see Skidmore, Th., Black Into White: Race and Nationality in Brazilian Thought, New York, Oxford University Press, 1974. For a recent critique, Schwarcz, L., O Espetáculo das Raças, São Paulo, Cia. das Letras, 1992.

68 Morton-Williams, P., “An Outline of the Cosmology and Cult Organisation of the Oyó Yoruba,” in Africa 34, 1964, pp. 243–261; Bascom, W.R., Sixteen Cowries: Yoruba Divination from Africa to the New World, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1980; Barnes, S. (ed.), Africa’s Ogun: Old World and New, Bloomington (IN), Indiana University Press, 1989; and Apter, D., Black Critics and Kings: The Hermeneutics of Power in Yoruba Society, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 1992.

69 See Nascimento, A. and Sathler, J., “Black Masks on White Faces: Liberation Theology and the Quest for Syncretism in the Brazilian Context,” in E. Mendieta, L. Lorentzen, D. Batstone & Hopkins, D. (eds.), Liberation Theology and Postmodernity in the Americas, London, Routledge, 1997, pp. 103–109. More recently, Matory, J.L., Black Atlantic Religion: Tradition, Transnationalism, and Matriarchy in the Afro-Brazilian Candomble, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2005.

70 Romero, S., O Naturalismo em Literatura, São Paulo, Lucta, 1882, pp. 85, 149. These ideas have parallels beyond the Brazilian boundaries, as for example in Argentina – where José Ingenieros defended ethnical cleansing – and in Mexico – where the hybrid inheritance of the Malinche was defined in terms of a proud “cosmic race” by the philosopher José Vasconcelos. Therefore, despite their defense of something purely Latin American, there is a need to be cautious with these thinkers and recognize that they remained tied to the prejudices of their time. Although their position may represent a critique of Eurocentrism already at that time, they still maintain a hierarchical view of the “races” proper to positivism.

71 Schwarcz, L., O Espetáculo das Raças, pp. 43–66. This utopia of a “perfect race” is a complementary element of what Franz Hinkelammert criticized as the conservative doctrine of “cosmic mimesis” and “perfect plausibility” at the economic and political level – see Crítica a la razón utópica, San José, DEI, 1984, pp. 47–52 – and rests on the same metaphysical assumptions behind positivistic “social engineering.” However, the relation of this issue to slavery in the Americas is a topic that still needs to be examined.

72 Freyre, G., Casa Grande & Senzala [1933], Rio de Janeiro, J. Olympio, 1987. For a critique cf. Fernandes, Fl., A Integração dos Negros na Sociedade de Classes, São Paulo, Ed. Ática, 1978.

73 See Fernandes, A Integração dos Negros na Sociedade de Classes, and Cardoso, F.H., Capitalismo e Escravidão, São Paulo, Difusão Européia do Livro, 1962. Cardoso, who was elected Brazilian president in 1994, was the first politician to publicly recognize and to address the issue of racism in Brazil. See also Thales de Azevedo, Cultura e Situação Racial no Brasil, Rio de Janeiro, Civilização Brasileira, 1966; Moura, C., O Negro: De Bom Escravo a Mal Cidadão?, Rio de Janeiro, 1977; Ianni, O., Escravidão e Racismo, Sao Paulo, Atica, 1978; Nascimento, A., O Genocídio do Negro Brasileiro, Rio de Janeiro, Paz e Terra, 1978.

74 See Skidmore’s interview reflecting on these issues in Dávila, J. and Morgan, Z., “Since Black into White: Thomas Skidmore on Brazilian Race Relations,” in The Americas, Vol. 64, Number 3, January 2008, pp. 409–423.