Category Archives: Geography

Bits&Pieces (HUM225)

Narratives like The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta, the Celebrated California Bandit provide us with a basis for understanding the ways that popular culture in its most general sense– as the culture of the popular classes, i.e., the people– dramatize and question socio-historical forces.

One of the roots of the land-grab that we’ve come to call the Mexican-American War concerns the spread of chattel slavery and the maintenance of the political and economic powers of the slaver class. The Republic of Texas was founded by slave-owners who wouldn’t abide by Mexican law, which in 1829 outlawed chattel slavery.

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The (Black/Trans)Atlantic World, Slavery, and America (HUM455)

Here is some background to the Haitian Revolution, taken from a lecture I gave a couple of years ago. Note that several of the terms discussed below bear a relationship to the concepts of the geographical imaginary/imagination.

Maritime Culture, America, and the Black Atlantic

“The Oceanic Revolution”: the opening of the Western Hemisphere to exploration and colonization was a world historical event. The central figures of this revolution were sailors and the enslaved.

Deep water exploration had a profound impact on different forms of knowledge. New peoples, unfamiliar cultural formations and ways of organizing society, led to a new typologies of human difference, new methods of categorization, the rise of Race as a term describing not simply national/cultural differences, but variations that were seen to be somatic (in/of the body) and ineradicable. Theories of monogenism/polygenism. In other words, the oceanic revolution resulted in a kind of proto-anthropology.

In Spanish America the confluence of people of different backgrounds led to the what came to be known as the Casta System. Out 4 main racio-cultural groups– Peninsular (European born in Spain); Criollo (European descent, born in America); Indio (indigenous); and Negro (African descent)– came a plurality of “mixed” possibilities.


This, in distinction to British North America, where the racial divide tended to be simplified to a Black/White binary according to the “one drop rule” (principle of hypodescent). Of course, as time passed, new groups came to the Americas, especially people from China and the Philippines. See, for example, this chronology of Asians in America


The Black Atlantic

“Black Atlantic refers not to a clearly defined region or specific period, but to a multidimensional and trans-cultural space characterised more by movement and networking than by particular sites. Paul Gilroy sees the Atlantic Ocean as a negative continent that makes it possible to trace lines of social, historical and cultural connection between the Americas, Africa and Western Europe.”

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