Fernand Braudel Center, Binghamton University

Review Abstracts, Vol. XXXIV, 2011


Review XXXIV, 1/2, 2011


Sidney W. Mintz, “Plantations and the Rise of a World Food Economy: Some Preliminary Ideas”


This essay aims to broaden our understanding of the large agricultural estates that were created during the first stage of world capitalism, mainly in the world’s tropical regions, and mostly to supply European proletarian populations. It seeks to add a global political dimension, while reducing the emphasis on regional and crop-specific features.


Dale Tomich, “Rethinking the Plantation: Concepts and Histories”


This article re-evaluates the plantation concept through a critical examination of the work of Edgar Thompson and of Jay Mandle. It then redeploys the concept from the perspective of the capitalist world-economy. It argues that the plantation represents a key institutional nexus through which market and class relations, social practices and cultural meanings operate, and identities are concretely formed. World market and division of labor and social relations of production are integrated with one another through the institutional matrix of the plantation.


Rômulo Andrade, “African and Creole Slaves: From the Diversified Agriculture of Southern Rio de Janeiro to the Coffee Cultivation of Minas Gerais, 1802–1885”


This article contributes to the debate over slavery in southeastern Brazil. It seeks to go beyond statistics, in order to analyze the social history of the slave universe in coffee counties of Zona da Mata of Minas Gerais and in diversified agriculture regions in Southern Rio de Janeiro. Comparing sources, exploiting geographic and temporal spatialities, investigating oscillatory movements in prices and demography, tracking baptisms, marriages, and deaths, the author traces a compares these two regions, noting their similarities and differences through analysis of historical series that have been identified, while examining how improvements in the transport system and epidemic outbreaks, among other factors, affected differentiated agrarian systems and caused irregular movements in the population.


Olivia Gomes da Cunha, “Somewhere Close to Nashville: Plantation Cartographies”


In this article I focus on one of the comparative effects of the use of the concept of “plantation” in a cartography produced by the intersection of a set of research projects begun in a social sciences department at Fisk University in Nashville between 1926 and 1945. Research projects in Social Science carried on at Fisk are analyzed as intersections of different academic, political, and sociotechnical networks that allowed the production of what I call “plantation cartographies.” Capturing the divergences and ramifications of a dialogue on education and colonialism associated with the desire to describe and transform the plantation into a conceptual artifact, this article shows how the concept was created and turned out to be an object of multiple interpretations.


Christine Rufino Dabat, “Sugar Cane “Plantations” in Pernambuco: From “Natural Vocation” to Ethanol Production”


Converging factors of subordination seem to condemn rural workers in the sugarcane area of Pernambuco to a life in which continuous precariousness defied successive updatings in legal status. The conquest of land from the forest, a process completed with Proalcool (1975), was accompanied by systems of labor submission: first slavery, and after emancipation (1888) an almost lawless system of peonage until 1963. Both were and are considered epiphenomena of productive activity itself, as dictated by the region’s tropical quality. In other words, it reflected the region’s ‘natural vocation´, thus justifying brutal working relationships. Such an interpretation combines natural Diktatwith cultural evolutionism, a lowly position on the line of successive compulsory stages. As a result, naturalizing postulates did not receive adequate challenge from more historically minded currents of thought, although dire social consequences of the system were denounced, as well as late and incomplete application of labor legislation to rural wage workers. But a new concept, in foreign guise, seems to have worked as a redeeming factor: the ‘plantation’.


Luis Nicolau Parés, “Creolization and Creole Population in Plantations of the Bahian Recôncavo”


This paper seeks to address the process of creolization in the plantations of the Bahian Recôncavo during the colonial period. To do so it establishes, on the one hand, a distinction between the process of cultural creolization (that is, transformations that African cultures underwent in Brazil), and on the other, the process of demographic creolization, or the growth of a Creole population (i.e., Brazilian-born blacks). Although both processes are interrelated, they are not parallel, nor does the former result from the latter. Taking this distinction into account, the paper examines the oscillations in Creole demography in the Recôncavo as well as marriage patterns between Creoles and Africans, trying to evaluate how these two factors shaped the transmission of cultural and linguistic African referents, thus becoming critical variables in the process of cultural creolization.


Maria Helena P. T. Machado, “Slavery and Social Movements in Nineteenth-Century Brazil: Slave Strategies and Abolition in São Paulo”


This article examines the movements involving slaves in the coffee-growing regions of Brazil during the last decade of slavery, with a special focus on a slave revolt taking place in Campinas, a coffee county in the western part of São Paulo Province, in the early 1880s. My approach points to two larger issues: first, the formation of plantation communities in the southeastern coffee region resulted from a long process of interaction between various factors and actors, resulting in the emergence of a highly organized form of slave agency. A second line of analysis has to do with the process of modernization that affected the coffee regions in Western São Paulo, with the spread of train lines, telegraphs, and newspapers, all of which revolutionized the ways that slaves could organize their activities.


Tania Andrade Lima, “Keeping a Tight Lid: The Architecture and Landscape Design of Coffee Plantations in Nineteenth-Century Rio de Janeiro, Brazil”


Exploring the case of the São Fernando Plantation in the Paraíba Valley, this article discusses the ways in which material culture was actively manipulated to support and legitimize the rigid system of control and coercion sustaining large-scale coffee production in nineteenth-century Rio de Janeiro, founded on slave labor. Embedded in the structural duality of slave-based society, the architecture and landscape of the plantations were built around the panoptic model of constant surveillance, enabling extreme forms of oppression. Far from being a merely urban phenomenon, the efficiency of Bentham’s model deeply influenced the ideas of rural slave-owners, turning it into an organizing principle that was likewise extended to Rio de Janeiro’s coffee plantations.


Maria Dulce Gaspar, “Material Culture, Daily Life, and Archaeological Possibilities in the Plantation Borders of the Guanabara Bay Region”


This study is part of a research project that has the goal of reconstructing the process of colonization of the Guanabara Bay region, especially the valley of the Macacu River. The occupation started with fisher-gatherer groups known as sambaquieiros at approximately 4000 years BP. The Tupinambá invaded the region at the beginning of the Christian era, and during the sixteenth century by Europeans who brought numerous Africans as slave workers. This paper presents different research strategies focused on the identification and characterization of the African occupation of Guanabara Bay. Despite historians’ assertion of the existence of maroon communities in the region, especially the Suruhí community, archaeological investigations had not previously identified clearly African locales. Ceramic analyses, especially on pipes but also bowls, on a small figure of a face with scarifications, plus study of the spatial organization of the locale, indicate that the archaeological site Macacu IV was also a place of settlement for Africans and their descendants.


Review XXXIV, 3, 2011


Richard Lachmann, “Nationalism in a Post-Hegemonic Era”


What is the future of nationalism in a world that, for the first time in 500 years, might soon be without a hegemon? This article answers that question by tracing the origins of nationalism, its changing relationship to citizen rights, and differentiating among the economic, political, military, and cultural aspects of nationalism. The article then turns to the recent demise of conscription in the West, and examines how the decline of U.S. power and the current economic crisis and coming environmental crises can differentially affect nationalism across the world.


Nitsan Chorev, Tatiana Andia Rey & David Ciplet, “The State of States in International Organizations: From the WHO to the Global Fund”


The scholarship on international relations has identified a dramatic shift in the governing structure of the global arena, with actors other than governments—including civil society organizations, capital, and international bureaucracies—playing an increasingly active role. But how has this transition affected the rights, obligations, and influence of nation-states? To examine this question, we look at the experience of the World Health Organization (both past and present) and compare it to the experience of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which is a more recent organization. We identify two particularly important shifts in the position of states: from sovereignty to ownership, and from needs-based to merit-based support. In the paper we analyze these transformations and discuss their implications.


David Nugent, “On the Study of Social Optics: Foucault, Counter-Surveillance, and the Political Underground in Northern Peru”


In Discipline and Punish, Foucault outlines the emergence of a “carceral society,” based on modern disciplinary institutions exemplified by the Panopticon, which individualize and embody discipline in novel forms. Among the most salient aspects of disciplinary institutions is that they establish an unequal gaze, in which subjects feel themselves to be under constant observation by an unseen seer, conveying the sentiment of an invisible omniscience. In this paper I suggest that institutions like the Panopticon represent only one among many structures of surveillance—that the question of who is understood to be gazing at whom, by what means, and with what effects, is an important issue for anthropological investigation. I illustrate this argument by drawing ethnographic materials circa 1950 from the Chachapoyas region of northern Peru, where government repression forced a political party called APRA to seek refuge underground. Despite the fact that APRA was forced to operate in secret, beyond the gaze of the authorities, the party precipitated a crisis of rule among government officials, convincing them that they were incapable of carrying out even the most basic of governing functions. Although APRA had nothing even remotely resembling disciplinary institutions at its command, the party nonetheless managed to create its own sentiment of invisible omniscience, and to convince government officials that they were subject to it. I draw on these developments to argue that there are many different modes or technologies of surveillance, each of which reflects specific social conditions, and which produces distinctive ways of ruling at a distance.


Review XXXIV, 4, 2011


Giralda Seyferth, “The Slave Plantation and Foreign Colonization in Imperial Brazil”


Shortly after independence in 1824, the Brazilian Imperial government began to encourage European immigration to the country in order to colonize public lands by establishing small family farms. Political considerations and lack of public funding interrupted immigrant recruitment activities in 1830, however. Fifteen years later, foreign colonization recruitment began again. These efforts took place against a backdrop formed by the end of the Transatlantic slave trade and the consequent crisis this generated in rural Brazil, which intensified large landowners’ desires to acquire new sources of labor. Two interest groups thus formed around the immigration question in Brazil and the correlated possibilities for public land occupation, leading to the formation of two separate and distinct immigration/ colonization models. The present paper analyzes the apparently conflicting interests which produced immigration policy in Imperial Brazil (1822–1889), focusing on the debates over the substitution of slave for free immigrant labor on plantations and the perceived urgent need to occupy certain “wilderness” regions with “civilized” colonists. The differing goals which this immigration policy tried to meet resulted in political conflicts between large slave-holding landowners and reformist liberals who demanded an end to slavery as a prerequisite for the development and progress of the Brazilian nation.


Olivia Gomes da Cunha, “Multiple Effects: On Themes, Relations, and Caribbean Compositions”


In this essay, I wish to explore some effects of the comparisons undertaken in the recent anthropological literature on different aspects of Caribbean societies as imagined by the anthropologist Sidney W. Mintz. To this end, my reading of Mintz’ Three Ancient Colonies: Caribbean Themes and Variations (2010) will form part of my analysis, as both a pretext and a compositional exercise, since it provides clues to the choices made by an important traveler, whose theoretical and methodological approaches have been receiving much deserved attention and creative re-readings (among others, Carnegie 2006, Scott 2004, Bacca, Khan and Palmié 2009). The present text is definitely not another critical reading, but rather a modest and incomplete inventory of themes that traverse Mintz’s book in the manner of incidental music. Just as the anthropologist proceeded by highlighting historical variations and transformations whose effects can only be perceived comparatively, in this essay I follow Mintz’s lead by proposing modulations. I look to emphasize some of the effects of the modulations and comparisons produced by Mintz over more than six decades.


Sidney W. Mintz, “Caribbean History, Caribbean Labor”


This essay seeks to reflect on, and to weigh, the place of manual labor in modern life. Work can be a source of pride and give meaning to life, even if the nature of the work is considered undignified or lowly by persons proud of doing nothing manual. I suggest some reasons why social esteem for such work may have declined. I also argue that the pride that manual workers take in their work may be used as a weapon against their interests by those who employ them.


Michael Zeuske, “Sidney Mintz: Work, Creolization, Atlanticization”


This article deals with several important books of Sidney Mintz, and with the influence of their central topics, work and labor, not only on this author’s scientific career as a Caribbeanist, but also against the background of his life experiences in Eastern Germany.


José A. Piqueras, “The Red Thread”


Our commentary on the text by Sidney Mintz, “Caribbean History, Caribbean Labor,” examines the social conditions in which the rural laborer seeks to give meaning to his work by incorporating it into the meaning of life and dignity. As Mintz’s observations lead us to the deduction that the labor described is differentiated work with some degree of specialization, we discuss the shortcomings of Mintz’s hypothesis as applied to slave labor.


Jane Collins, “Narratives of Skill and Meaning within ‘Menial’ Work”


This paper argues that Sidney Mintz's “Caribbean History, Caribbean Labor” is a deeply personal reflection on the materiality of work. It highlights Mintz’s exploration of the “sensuous” (to use Marx's expression) dimensions of skill, mastery, and embodied knowledge. It suggests that Mintz leaves us with profound questions about how to square this meaningful, and potentially liberatory, dimension of work with its sometimes simultaneous exploitative aspects.


Christine Rufino Dabat, “Work, between Pride and Exploitation”


This paper argues that Sidney Mintz’s “Caribbean History, Caribbean Labor” focuses on work’s centrality as an expression of personal fulfillment, and at the same time it displays exploitation of the strongest type, as is well known in sugar cane plantations in the Americas.