Language, Identity, and Power in Colonial Brazil, 1695-1822

Change log
Scarato, Luciane Cristina 

Language, Identity, and Power in Colonial Brazil, 1695-1822 Luciane Cristina Scarato

This dissertation investigates the diverse ways in which the Portuguese language expanded in Brazil, despite the multilingual landscape that predominated prior to and after the arrival of the Europeans and the African diaspora. It challenges the assumption that the predominance of Portuguese was a natural consequence and foregone conclusion of colonisation.

This work argues that the expansion of Portuguese was a tumultuous process that mirrored the power relations and conflicts between Amerindian, European, African, and mestizo actors who shaped, standardised, and promoted the Portuguese language within and beyond state institutions. The expansion of Portuguese was as much a result of state intervention as it was of individual agency. Language was a mechanism of power that opened possibilities in a society where ethnic, religious, and economic criteria usually marginalised the vast majority of the population from the colonial system. Basic literacy skills allowed access to certain occupations in administration, trading, teaching, and priesthood that elevated people’s social standing. These possibilities created, in most social groups, the desire to emulate the elites and to appropriate the Portuguese language as part of their identity.

This research situates the question of language, identity, and power within the theoretical framework of Atlantic history between 1695 and 1822. Atlantic history contributes to our understanding of the ways in which peoples, materials, institutions and ideas moved across Iberia, Africa and the Americas without overlooking the new contours that these elements assumed in the colony, as they moved in tandem, but also contested each other. Focusing on the mining district of Minas Gerais for its economic and social importance, this dissertation draws on multiple ecclesiastical and administrative sources to assess how ordinary people and authoritative figures daily interacted with one another to shape the Portuguese language.

Ramos, Gabriela
Luso-Brazilian empire, Education, Censorship, Multilingualism, History of the book, Material Culture, Portugal, Portuguese language, Modern history, Colonial Brazil, Colonial Minas Gerais, Iberian Atlantic world, Schooling, Cultural Mobility, Language contact, Literacy, Marquis of Pombal, Lancaster method, Vernaculars, Atlantic history
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge