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  • Race, Religion, Subjectivity, and Representation
  • Nicole von Germeten (bio)
Race, Colonialism, and Social Transformation in Latin America and the Caribbean. Edited by Jerome Branche. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2008. Pp. viii + 301. $69.95 cloth. ISBN: 9780813032641.
Searching for Africa in Brazil: Power and Tradition in Candomblé. By Stefania Capone. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010. Pp. xiv + 312. $84.95 cloth. $23.95 paper. ISBN: 9780822346364.
Imperial Subjects: Race and Identity in Colonial Latin America. Edited by Andrew B. Fisher and Matthew D. O’Hara. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009. Pp. xiv + 303. $84.95 cloth. $23.95 paper. ISBN: 9780822344209.
Chica da Silva: A Brazilian Slave of the Eighteenth Century. By Júnia Ferreira Furtado. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009. Pp. xxv + 322. $75.00 cloth. $23.99 paper. ISBN: 978052171155.
Hearing the Mermaid’s Song: The Umbanda Religion in Rio de Janeiro. By Lindsay Hale. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2009. Pp. xvi + 192. $26.95 paper. ISBN: 9780826347336.
Race and Classification: The Case of Mexican America. Edited by Ilona Katzew and Susan Deans-Smith. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2009. Pp. xxiii + 356. $65.00 cloth. $24.95 paper. ISBN: 9780804761413.
Slavery in Brazil. By Herbert S. Klein and Francisco Vidal Luna. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Pp. xi + 364. $95.00 cloth. $28.99 paper. ISBN: 9780521141925.
Cannibal Democracy: Race and Representation in the Literature of the Americas. By Zita Nunes. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008. Pp. xx + 218. $22.50 paper. ISBN: 9780816648412.
Damned Notions of Liberty: Slavery, Culture, and Power in Colonial Mexico, 1640–1769. By Frank T. Proctor III. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2010. Pp. xiv + 282. $27.95 paper. ISBN: 9780826349668.
Brazil’s Living Museum: Race, Reform, and Tradition in Bahia. By Anadelia A. Romo, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010. Pp. xi + 221. $59.95 cloth. $24.95 paper. ISBN: 9780807871157.

Racial identity and its relation to state institutions (whether of transatlantic empires or of nations in formation) remain among the more vibrant fields of study for historians of Latin America. In this cluster of ten recent books, historians, anthropologists, and literary critics focus on racial ideologies but also engage race as [End Page 214] it intersects with identity formation, religious belief and practice, and intellectual and artistic traditions. Brazil dominates, at least in this group, as the region that has inspired the most vibrant and lively scholarship on such issues. And as in the case of Brazil, it should come as no surprise that the history of racial identity in Mexico and colonial New Spain also continues to inspire scholarly interest among U.S. academics, because it offers a fertile ground to compare the history of race in this country. A few of the chapters in the edited volumes reviewed here also juxtapose Mexico to the United States to examine how race has been conceptualized in these countries in the twentieth century, with particular attention to the self-conceptions and racial labels used to identify persons of Mexican heritage living north of the border. However, for this reviewer, the most memorable and captivating of the ten books under review are the two that employ a highly personalized, biographical or autobiographical methodology. I begin with these two excellent books.

Both Lindsay Hale’s Hearing the Mermaid’s Song and Júnia Ferreira Furtado’s Chica da Silva present the life experience of a single person and contextualize their subjects with thorough and far-reaching scholarship. For Hale, that individual is himself. He beautifully and emotionally recounts his own experiences in observing and participating in Umbanda in Brazil, starting in the 1980s. Furtado’s biography is an extremely different, but equally fascinating, revision of the life and times of a notorious, yet mythologized, eighteenth-century freedwoman from Minas Gerais. Although that is only one minor aspect of her deeply researched study, Furtado’s efforts to trace the ups and downs of the myth of Chica da Silva succeed in conveying a great deal about notions of race and nation in Brazil since the early nineteenth century. For teachers looking to draw in their students, the presentation of broader themes and their...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1542-4278
Print ISSN
0023-8791
Pages
pp. 214-222
Launched on MUSE
2012-09-07
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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