Sunday, October 31, 2010

In Defense of Honor: Sexual Morality, Modernity, and Nation in Early-Twentieth Century Brazil by Sueann Caulfield

Caulfield uses "deflowering" (a.k.a. seduction) cases from early twentieth century Rio de Janeiro to address the topics of sexual morality and nation building. It is truly amazing what people will latch onto in order to keep gender and racial hierarchies intact.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

To Be a Slave in Brazil 1550-1888 by Katia M. De Queiros Mattoso

Putting time limits on historical phenomena is an interesting concept. Slavery certainly existed in Brazil prior to 1550; 1550 just marks when the slave trade started in earnest. [Basically, I like this picture (from Chicago) and wanted to make it work for this book.] Mattoso examined the social aspect of slavery by looking at how slaves interacted with each other, their masters, and freed slaves. The problem was that she did not use footnotes or endnotes, which made her conjectures seem a bit ungrounded. I read this one as part of my oral report for class last night. It was for more than half of my grade so hopefully it went well.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin Abbott

I found this book in the $1 section at Borders four years ago. I read half of it then and picked it up again a month ago. I like reading before I fall asleep at night, but I am in no way alert enough at that point in the day to do (more) school reading. Thus, I needed something I could read 2 pages of at a time and not feel compelled to finish in a timely manner. Hence, the book I started four years ago. If I liked and/or understood geometry this book probably would have held my attention better given that it is basically a mathematical thought experiment. Although, looking through the lens of all the feminist theory I've been studying, the book is an intriguing take on women's role in British society circa 1884. Interesting that women can never be any shape other than a straight line and should be educated so they can be controlled.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Afro-Latin America 1800-2000 by George Reid Andrews

I think this book is my favorite one I have read for this class to date. That might be due to the fact that Andrews draws heavily on examples from Brazil to develop his argument that Afro-Latin Americans have played a critical role in transforming the social, political and cultural life of Central and South America (9). That makes sense considering Brazil by far has the largest black population in Latin America due to its heavy reliance on and late disavowal of the slave trade. I especially liked his explanations of the development and appropriation of Afro-centric and Afro-derived cultural traditions. Hopefully, centuries from now (if the planet hasn't been completely trashed), the human population will have moved beyond race. After all, they're just colors.

The Limits of Racial Domination: Plebeian Society in Colonial Mexico City, 1660-1720 by Douglas Cope

Why can historians not seem to keep their book titles succinct? Cope had a really fascinating take on the racial politics of colonial Mexico City. Basically, he argues that the plebeian subculture limited Hispanic ability to control castas (racial mixed people) through racial ideology. Race had real meaning because it delineated individuals' social networks, but "passing" as another casta group was only an issue if one was trying to break into the closed world of the Hispanic elite.