Mellon Forum on the Urban Environment/Race Empire Environment "Of Milk, Blood, and Bones: Brazil's Colonial and Postcolonial Plantation "Big House"
Gilberto Freyre's influential book Casa Grande e Senzala [The Masters and the Slaves] (1933) has been an international reference in Brazil's historical racial relations. In this equally historiographical and fictional study, a benevolent rendering of the plantation's "big house" stands for Brazil, that is, as the root of its modern, exceptional, and multiculturalist society. In this view, colonial domesticity's openness to "masters" and "slaves" nurtured interracial relations, miscegenation, and transculturation. According to Freyre, spatial practices such as implanted bones and blood in building foundations and breast milk ties between white boys and their Black wet nurses embodied some of Brazil's hybridity matrices. In this presentation, Ozaki will analyze these historiographical and spatial tropes to contend how the plantation permeated modern frameworks of territory and domesticity. She will argue that Brazil's nation-building process was contingent upon bodily accumulations to forge perceptions of racial fluidity, tropical adaptability, and alternative modernity to Europe's and the US's binary racial dynamics.