Current Institutional Affiliation
Freelance Writer

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2010
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, Vanderbilt University
Black Religions with White Faces: The Creolization of Religious Belief and Cultural Practice in Colonial Brazil and Cuba, 1600-1800

My project will focus on answering three major questions which speak to larger issues of race, creolization, and religious change in colonial Latin American and African Diaspora history. First, how did the interaction of Iberian Catholic Christianity and African belief systems during the colonial era result in a creolized, syncretic popular religiosity which informed the cultural practices and philosophies of white populations in Brazil and Cuba? My second question seeks to illuminate the social and cultural proximity of whites and blacks in colonial society. An analysis of colonial urban areas such as Salvador da Bahia and Havana is likely to prove that rigid racial categories and the ideology of limpieza de sangre were preoccupations mainly of the upper echelons of Brazilian and Cuban society. The third line of inquiry, and the ultimate goal of this dissertation, is to engage and move forward the scholarship on creolization. As the progenitors of the this theory, anthropologists Sidney Mintz and Richard Price, set forth, creolization in the Americas was a purely black experience. To this day, proponents of the creolization theory maintain that Africans were forced to adapt and improvise in an environment dominated by whites, who had a homogeneous and monolithic culture. While I concur with Mintz and Price regarding the creolization of blacks, their contention regarding the uniform nature of white society and culture in the Americas is overly simplistic. Scholarship building upon their work has replicated this theoretical error, resulting in a historiography that does not present a thorough picture of racial, social and religious dynamics in Latin American slave societies. I will use the participation of whites in African Diasporic religions as a means to test the creolization of whites in colonial Brazil and Cuba. The two century scope of my study will allow me to demonstrate accurately the change over time of the adoption of African cultural and religious practices by whites.