This Day in History 720
This lovely, Fall-ish day brings us James H. Sweet’s Recreating Africa: Culture, Kinship, and Religion in the African-Portuguese World, 1441–1770. Sweet’s core argument builds further on John Thornton’s book, which Sweet cites heavily, Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400-1800, we previously discussed, in that African cultural practices not only survived the middle passage, but retained its African roots, often looking exactly the same as it did in Africa. He, in general, argues against creolization in Brazil, and demonstrates how African culture not only coexisted with, but in some was was adopted into Portuguese Catholicism.
Furthermore, but utilizing Portuguese inquisition documents, Benidictine and Jesuite preist records he is able to effectively deomstrate how African rituals, religion, and spirituality, to name a few, acted as form of agency and resistance to the institution of slavery in Brazil. By utilizing slave voices and writing often from the perspective of the slave he is able do make his points quite effectively, something which is hard to do simply due to the lack of slave records documenting their everyday lives.
Although a fascinating work on African religion and culture, this is a pretty heady piece of history. Although some of sections may interest a few casual history readers (Chapter 3, Disease, Mortality, and Master Power jumps to mind) I would be hard pressed to recommend this book to anyone outside the history community. To only be 229 pages, it is dense, hard to follow, and steeped in previous historiography.
This Day in History 720 is a weekly post chronicling the readings in my graduate history course, while examining the history geek culture.