Beyond Babel: Translations of Blackness in Colonial Peru and New Granada (Afro-L atin America): Larissa Brewer-García

In seventeenth-century Spanish America, black linguistic interpreters and spiritual intermediaries played key roles in the production of writings about black men and women. Focusing on the African diaspora in Peru and the southern continental Caribbean, Larissa Brewer-García uncovers long-ignored or lost archival materials describing the experiences of black Christians in the transatlantic slave trade and the colonial societies where they arrived. Brewer-García’s analysis of these materials shows that black intermediaries bridged divisions among the populations implicated in the slave trade, exerting influence over colonial Spanish American writings and emerging racial hierarchies in the Atlantic world. The translated portrayals of blackness composed by these intermediaries stood in stark contrast to the pejorative stereotypes common in literary and legal texts of the period. Brewer-García reconstructs the context of those translations and traces the contours and consequences of their notions of blackness, which were characterized by physical beauty and spiritual virtue.


‘Just a generation ago, scholars acknowledged the first sightings of blacks in the Spanish American archives. By making Africans and their descendants legible and audible in ways that just recently were inconceivable, Beyond Babel transforms our historical imagination. Brewer-García’s foundational contribution to this dynamic field of study is remarkable.’ Herman L. Bennett, The Graduate Center, City University of New York

‘In this scrupulously researched and rigorously argued book, Brewer-García releases from archival obscurity and historiographical neglect the voice of Afro-Latin American men and women, demonstrating their role as vital thinkers and authors of the early modern era. Her close, historically grounded analysis of texts featuring black thought in colonial Lima and Cartagena offers a powerful revision of the definition and meaning of blackness in slavery-era South America, and the early modern world at large.’ Cécile Fromont, Yale University and author of The Art of Conversion: Christian Visual Culture in the Kingdom of Kongo

‘Beyond Babel is a beautifully rendered account of black intermediaries who made Catholic conversion among enslaved peoples possible. Brewer-García reveals the multivalent meanings of religious virtue and black sainthood among enslaved Africans in the Americas as the religious mandate of the Catholic Kings assumed primacy in the legitimation of enslavement and settlement. Deeply researched and clearly written, Beyond Babel will influence the fields of race, religion, diaspora, and identity in the early modern world.’ Michelle McKinley, University of Oregon and author of Fractional Freedoms: Slavery, Intimacy, and Legal Mobilization in Colonial Lima

Book Description

Examines how black intermediaries in colonial Spanish America influenced written portrayals of virtuous and beautiful blackness.

About the Author

Larissa Brewer-García is an Assistant Professor of Latin American Literature at the University of Chicago.

  • Language : English
  • Hardcover : 321 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1108493009
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1108493000
  • Item Weight : 1.37 pounds
  • Dimensions : 6 x 0.88 x 9 inches

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