Family Stories, Local Practices, and the Struggle for Social Improvement in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Latin America

Posted in Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Forthcoming Media, History, Live Events, Mexico, Papers/Presentations on 2012-11-23 05:39Z by Steven

Family Stories, Local Practices, and the Struggle for Social Improvement in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Latin America

127th Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association
New Orleans, Louisiana
2013-01-03 through 2013-01-06

AHA Session 25: Conference on Latin American History 3
Thursday, 2012-01-03: 13:00-15:00 CST (Local Time)
Conti Room (Roosevelt New Orleans)

Chair: Matt D. O’Hara, University of California, Santa Cruz


Comment: Elizabeth A. Kuznesof, University of Kansas

Over the last three decades, scholars of colonial and early national Latin America have worked to organize archives and compile quantitative data relative to the demographic composition and patterns of social interaction that marked those societies. Thanks to their efforts, we now have a better understanding of the impact Iberian, African and Indigenous peoples had on the formation of a colonial population; what the dominant patterns of family formation and population growth were; how the social and economic behavior of colonial elites supported the social reproduction of white privilege; how the social and economic behavior of Blacks and Indios challenged or at least complicated the existing social and racial hierarchies. These efforts, moreover, have now resulted in rich datasets that allow historians to follow individuals and their families over time to understand better the impact family formation and their various social and economic behaviors have had on the experiences of different ethnic and racial groups, as well as the history of particular localities, in this formative period of Latin American societies. The papers in this panel employ the study of families in a generational perspective as a new methodological approach to explore further issues of social mobility among persons of non-Iberian of mixed descent and their relevance to the development of a colonial or early national social order in Latin America. Through their focus on specific families and their local connections, moreover, the papers help to elucidate questions about the long term impact of individual social improvement on, and the importance of local practices and circumstances to, the social standing of families whose members transcended the social boundaries between free and slave, black/indio and white. Together these papers advance the current scholarship on race relations and social mobility in colonial and early national Latin America in two fundamental ways. First, they integrate historical narratives of black, white, and indigenous social experiences—which still tend to be developed separately—and demonstrate that certain social practices and behaviors that shaped social orders in the past resulted sometimes from the coordinated (and not oppositional) actions and efforts of members of mixed-race family and social units. Second, they highlight how socio-economic practices and behaviors that influenced local realities first, and broader regional, national, or imperial realities second, were born out of strategies individual families pursued generation after generation to ensure the well-being of their members.

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