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Race, Church, and Colonial Government in the Atlantic: the case of Angola in the age of Enlightenment

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ATLANTIC_ANGOLA (Race, Church, and Colonial Government in the Atlantic: the case of Angola in the age of Enlightenment)

Reporting period: 2017-09-01 to 2019-08-31

The project ATLANTIC_ANGOLA seeks to analyse the intersection of race with the place of the church and colonial government in Angola from circa 1750-1820. Being the main provider of slaves to Brazil, Angola had a significant role for the economic success of the Portuguese South American colony, but also in the broader context of the Portuguese empire, due its privileged geographic position in the way between Asia and Brazil. That explains the increasing attention it started to receive from the Portuguese Crown after c. 1750, when several proposals for its economic exploitation and colonization arose. The aim of ATLANTIC_ANGOLA is to understand the role of the Catholic Church in disciplining and controlling the population, and instilling ideas of racial difference. The aim is not to study the Christianization process in Angola, evaluating the success or the failure of the missionary enterprise. The idea is to describe the “civilizing” function that was assigned to the Church by the Crown and by colonial authorities. That will allow the discussion of how issues like race and cultural and religious differences were dealt with by colonial agents. At the same time, it will be possible to identify how those agents defined “civilized”, in opposition to the behaviours that, according to them, required correction.

The disciplining role of the Church during the Early Modern Age is not particular to the colonial contexts. What is new in later 18th-century discourses and projects related to Angola is the intention of reducing the impact of the formation of a “creolized” society, one in which habits, values, and practices were transformed in a “contact zone”.The hypothesis of ATLANTIC_ANGOLA is that at least part of the population resisted the disciplining aims of the rulers. That resistance took different forms, but the result was the constitution of a creolized society, mainly in the city of Luanda and its hinterland. So, it will also be important to try to understand how creolized identities were built and how people with different (scattered?) identities interacted in the same place. Doing this, the ultimate aim will be to characterize the “colonial population” in order to identify the ways that colonial rulers dealt with the diverse populations living in Luanda and other Portuguese settlements in Angola.
All the previewed research activities were accomplished. The researcher underwent archival research in Rome (Archivio Segreto Vaticano and Arch. Storico Congregazione Evangelizzazione Popoli). During the two years of the fellowship he participated in different conferences where he presented papers that constituted preliminary versions of journal articles or book chapters that he will submit during the next months. Some research was also made in the Portuguese archives (Arquivo Ultramarino). The researcher achieved the main aims of the project regarding acquiring valuable new skills: the teaching experience was quite relevant, allowing to combine teaching formation (seminars and short courses provided by KCL to new staff), with teaching experience through practice and observation. Transferable were also acquired through face to face interactions with the supervisor and other faculty staff.
The project revised the topic of race relations in the Portuguese empire, discussing the “lusotropicalist” ideas, through the study of the native clergy.