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Title: Wombs of Liberation: The Legislation of Black Maternity and Freedom of the Womb in Brazil
Authors: Rosario, Margarita
Advisors: Draper, Susana
Contributors: Comparative Literature Department
Keywords: free womb
partus sequitur ventrem
Subjects: History
Latin American studies
Issue Date: 2021
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation, titled “Wombs of Liberation: The Legislation of Black Maternity and Freedom of the Womb in Brazil,” traces the juridical history of enslaved women’s biological reproduction from the Roman era to the nineteenth century in Brazil. In five chapters, Rosario shows how the concept of partus sequitur ventrem (“the child follows the womb”) was applied throughout the early modern period to the nineteenth century in Brazil. In the first chapter, Rosario carries out a historical analysis of the Roman legal rulings on enslaved women’s children. In chapter two, Rosario analyzes early modern Portuguese rulings on the children of enslaved women, characterizing the early modern period as a time of experimentation, when partus sequitur ventrem was unevenly applied and the manumission of children based on patrilineal kinship was common. In chapter three, Rosario shows how abolitionist scholars used Roman Law to advocate for the freedom of children who had been born from a “conditionally manumitted” mother, leading them to argue these children had not been born of a ventre escravo (“enslaved womb”), but instead, they had been born of a ventre livre (“free womb”). In chapter four, Rosario reads cases from Brazil’s Supremo Tribunal and show how enslaved or formerly enslaved women in the late-nineteenth century instrumentalized the weight of conversations on the freedom of the womb to argue that they had been conditionally manumitted before giving birth to their child, making the child free. In chapter five, Rosario discusses how enslaved mothers appeared in literary texts from the abolitionist period, creating a mythology around concepts on kinship between enslaved women and seignorial children. Through this dissertation, Rosario expanded upon the historiography of Western Hemispheric slavery studies and Roman slavery studies to produce an inter-disciplinary feminist work on how hereditary slavery was contested in abolitionist Brazil, and how in the nineteenth century, a Roman principle was instrumentalized to free enslaved women’s children.
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Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Comparative Literature

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