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36 2 CCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCC The Hemispheric Genealogies of “Race” Creolization and the Cultural Geography of Colonial Difference across the Eighteenth-Century Americas R ALPH BAUER In the wake of the postcolonial studies movement, early American literary scholarship across disciplinary boundaries has focused on the role that “race” played in European imperial expansionism and colonialism in the New World. Literary scholars and historians alike have generally proceeded from a historical notion of race as it emerged in the nineteenth century—as a transnational discourse of identity and difference based on biological factors, such as skin color (i.e., the “white,” “black,” “red,” “brown,” or “yellow” race)—and then traced the “origins” of this modern concept back to English colonialism in the seventeenth century,1 the Spanish conquests of the sixteenth century, and even to the Christian reconquest of Spain from the Moors and the expulsion of the Jews from Spain during the late fifteenth century.2 While these accounts have generally acknowledged “race” as an arbitrary and socially constructed category that is historically contingent and “ever-changing and adaptive,” they have also regarded the discourse of race as “remarkably resilient” and “persistent,”3 thus positing a continuous intellectual genealogy that connected pre-modern discourses of difference, such as the Spanish estatutos de limpieza de sangre (statues of the purity of blood) with the modern scientific racism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Recently, however, some scholars have disputed the notion that the “modern concept of race is . . . simply a continuation of age-old prejudices,”4 insisting that it is anachronistic to speak of “race”—in the modern sense of the word—before the nineteenth century. Indeed, as they have pointed out, the word “race” itself had a very different meaning before the nineteenth century, pertaining not to transnational groups of people distinguished by biological factors such as skin color but rather to various ethnic groups distinguished primarily by cultural practice . Thus, scholars have begun to place common metaphors conceptualizing THE HEMISPHERIC GENEALOGIES OF “RACE” 37 human differences such as “blood”—all too quickly associated with the modern idea of race—within their proper historical context, showing that in early modern social hierarchies their meaning approximates more closely what we today might call “ancestry” or “lineage,” whose quality (“good” or “bad” blood) was seen to manifest not biological but rather cultural and social difference.5 While this brief essay can obviously not offer a definitive resolution to this historical controversy, I do want to revisit the question of the modern concept of race from the hemispheric perspective of the eighteenth-century Americas. For this purpose, I will bring into the conversation two key discursive sites that have often been discussed in connection with the emergence of a modern concept of race in their respective realms: the writings of Antonio de Ulloa and Jorge Juan about their voyage to South America (178/1772) and Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia (1785). When read in the context of their hemispheric genealogies, Jefferson’s emergent ideas about race present themselves less as “The White Man’s Burden” that modern Americans allegedly inherited from the early modern (European) colonial encounter with an American “other.” Instead, such a hemispheric perspective will bring into focus the dialectical relationship between the modern idea of race and an older (“early modern”) circumatlantic discourse about (Spanish) American “creolization,” in which the geography and sociology of birth continued to play an important role in distinguishing American-born creoles from Europeans and that emanated from Spanish America both north across the hemisphere as well as east across the Atlantic.6 In other words, Jefferson’s emergent ideas about race will appear not as the (proto-)scientific product of the European imperial legacy in the New World but rather as a geopolitical counterdiscourse—that of creole patriotism—that would ultimately become the dominant ideology of nineteenth-century nationalism throughout the Western world in the process of hemispheric and transatlantic cultural diffusions.7 The idea of “whiteness,” in particular, became hereby central to a discourse of creole patriotism across the hemisphere, as European American colonials sought to assert new Enlightenment ideas of “equality” within colonial geographies. In the first section of this essay, I turn to the writings of Juan and Ulloa about South America and focus on what they reveal about the sociology of the creole discourse of whiteness ; in the second, I discuss the historical translation of...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780813543871
Related ISBN
9780813542225
MARC Record
OCLC
648350275
Pages
366
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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