History Department
History Department

Talk "Scenes of Sedition: Race and Public Politics in the 1798 Conspiracy of Bahia, Brazil," by Greg Childs, Brandeis University (Latin American Colloquium)

Thu, September 27, 2018 | GAR 1.102

4:00 PM - 6:00 PM

Abstract: In August of 1798, in Bahia, Brazil, nearly fifty men were implicated in a conspiracy to overthrow slavery, racism, and Portuguese rule. More than thirty of these individuals were free men of color, while another twelve were enslaved. By the end of the 1799, five of them would be executed, while another thirteen were publically whipped. Known to historians as the “Tailor’s Conspiracy,” and generally regarded as a precursor to Brazilian independence, the plot to rebel was not discovered by authorities or revealed through betrayal by one of the participants. Instead, dozens of handwritten bulletins appeared around the city that announced the coming rebellion and encouraged people in the city to join the movement. What did it mean for people of African descent to publically challenge colonialism, instead of keeping their movement hidden? What was the “public” in a colony with no printing press? And how might studying movements against slavery led by free and freed people of African descent better inform how we write the intellectual history of the Black Atlantic? This talk will address these questions while providing an overview of one of the most significant resistance movements in late colonial Latin America.

Dr. Greg Childs is an Assistant Professor in the History Department at Brandeis University, where he teaches courses on Latin American, Caribbean, and African Diaspora History. His book project, Seditious Spaces: Racial Politics in Bahia During the Age of Revolution, examines the 1798 Tailor’s Conspiracy in Salvador da Bahia, and how people of African descent used public spaces to critique colonialism and encourage “the people” to rebel against Portuguese rule in the late 18th century. He is also starting research on a new project provisionally entitled “Madness and Blackness: or the Asylum of Freedom in Post-Emancipation Americas,” a history of mental asylums and professional psychiatry developing alongside abolition in the US, Cuba, and Brazil. His most recent publications include, “Secret and Spectral: Torture and Secrecy in the Archives of Slave Conspiracies,” in the December 2015 edition of Social Text; and “The Common Exceptionality and the Exceptional Commonality of Black Thought,” in the Winter 2018 volume of Hemisphere. He is a frequent contributor, and member of the organizing committee for the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS) at aaihs.org. Read about his research and publications on his faculty profile page.

The Latin American Colloquium series will expose faculty and students on campus (not only history) to historiography in Spanish and Portuguese  and to faculty from the South Atlantic, whose work is often ignored.  It will also have faculty working on exiting  Latin American related topics. The colloquium will be a conversation, not a formal presentation. We ask participants to read a couple of articles or excerpts from books and come prepared to have a conversation (sometimes in Spanish or Portuguese). The colloquium is convened by Professor Jorge Canizares-Esguerra, Alice Drysdale Sheffield Professor of History, UT Austin. For the readings for each week, please contact at:

Sponsored by History Department; LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections; African and African Diaspora Studies; History of Science Colloquium; and Professors Delgado Garrido, Greg Childs, and Cameron Strang.

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