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Domestic slavery and ties of intimacy: slave women, breastfeeding and maternity in nineteenth-century Brazil

Grant number: 14/09291-0
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Doctorate
Effective date (Start): July 01, 2014
Effective date (End): April 30, 2018
Field of knowledge:Humanities - History - History of Brazil
Acordo de Cooperação: Coordination of Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES)
Principal Investigator:Maria Helena Pereira Toledo Machado
Grantee:Lorena Féres da Silva Telles
Host Institution: Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (FFLCH). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil


The attempt of this research is to investigate the experiences and social tensions faced by domestic slaves nursing mothers in nineteenth-century Brazil: form of enslavement that relapsed exclusively on women in the domestic domain, compulsory feeding entailed, from the perspective of slaves, the appropriation of their bodies as nursing mothers and their experiences of motherhood under slavery. The period between 1830 and 1888 ended a broad process of amendments regarding to the slave relationships, manifested, throughout the century, by the emergence of sanitary medical discourses in the 1830s, by the end of intercontinental trade, by the emancipation policy and the broader process of emancipations, which led to the slow decline of domestic ownership of slaves since the 1850s. Relating to the last century of the legitimacy of slavery in Brazil between 1830 and 1888, the sources that we pretend to study reveal the conflicts that permeated the slave relations within proprietary families during the breakdown of the system, which covers the emergence of sanitary doctors discourses about breastfeeding and childcare to the "Golden Law" in the provinces of São Paulo and Pernambuco, focusing mostly on the Rio de Janeiro and Bahia, whose capital hosted the first two Brazilian medical schools from which emerged extensive medical literature about breastfeeding, core set of research sources. Based on the analysis of a wider and diverse documentation - medical articles and academic theses, popular medical textbooks, sources of the Holy Houses of Mercy, newspaper advertisements, novels, memoirs and travel literature, as well as criminal and civil cases involving nursing mothers in the period - we propose to investigate the social practices related to breastfeeding and care for the free and slave children, beyond the experiences and tensions faced by domestic slaves who, directly serving their owners or leased to third parties, on farms and in urban townhomes played the role of nursing mothers. We intend to bring social practices regarding breastfeeding, childbirth and care of free and captive children, observing the tensions arising from the penetration of modernizing medical discourses in the enslavement domestic domain in the breakdown of urban and domestic slavery process, evaluating, in this process, the roles played by the nursing mothers, valued object of eighteenth-century medicine theses that were about breastfeeding and infant hygiene. We intend to go beyond the description of the labor market and medical representations on nursing mothers expressed in medical theses: particularly focusing on the appropriation of the body of the captive as nurturer, we aim to achieve aspects of the slave experience in the domestic world such as pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, as well as, depicting the intricate relations imbued than the dialectical relationship between the master and the slave, observing their physical proximity, paternalism, the violence and the intimacy and restrictions imposed by probing the maternal faculty of the own slave. The current project could be seen as a condition for proceeding with the study of a topic that even though being object of sober studies on other regions and contexts beyond 1800s Rio de Janeiro, requires a further investigation. (AU)

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Scientific publications
(References retrieved automatically from Web of Science and SciELO through information on FAPESP grants and their corresponding numbers as mentioned in the publications by the authors)
DA SILVA TELLES, LORENA FERES. Pregnant slaves, workers in labour: amid doctors and masters in a slave-owning city (nineteenth-century Rio de Janeiro). WOMENS HISTORY REVIEW, v. 27, n. 6, SI, p. 924-938, . (14/09291-0)
DA SILVA TELLES, LORENA FERES. Pregnant slaves, workers in labour: amid doctors and masters in a slave-owning city (nineteenth-century Rio de Janeiro). WOMENS HISTORY REVIEW, v. 27, n. 6, p. 15-pg., . (14/09291-0)
Academic Publications
(References retrieved automatically from State of São Paulo Research Institutions)
TELLES, Lorena Féres da Silva. Teresa Benguela and Felipa Crioula were pregnant: motherhood and slavery in Rio de Janeiro (19th century). 2019. Doctoral Thesis - Universidade de São Paulo (USP). Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (FFLCH/SBD) São Paulo.

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