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4572 - Rethinking Racial Categories in Seventeenth Century Brazil

Mixing between Europeans and Africans in the Portuguese Empire produced hierarchical categories for racial gradations during the seventeenth century. During this period the categories ‘mulato’ and ‘pardo’ were included in the regulations for Purity of Blood (Estatutos de Pureza de Sangue), which determined who could have access to the same honours and privileges that the old Christian Portuguese received. From the seventeenth century onwards, those regulations stipulated that ‘no one of the race of Jew, Moor or Mulato’ (Raça alguma de Judeu, Mouro ou Mulato) were eligible to receive certain honours and privileges from the crown. The paper discusses the meanings of ‘race’ in the Portuguese empire on the basis of two historical case studies. The twin process of miscegenation in the biological sense and cultural intermixing has engendered intermediate strata that have long stimulated the imagination of historians. Instead of emphasize the idea of a new mixing-blood strata, the two cases presented in the paper suggest a more central role for the early demographic impact of access to manumission and of Catholic Native America freedom in colonial society to explain the emergence of these intermediate categories in Portuguese America.

Keywords: slavery, race, identity.

Author: Mattos, Hebe (Universidade Federal Fluminense, Brazil / Brasilien)

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