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Conferences: 2011

A Richard E. Greenleaf Colonial Studies Conference:
Africans and Their Descendants in the Early Modern Ibero-American World

Agenda | Panel Descriptions | Panelists & Moderators | Podcasts | Acknowledgments



Date:  April 18-19, 2011

Location:  University of New Mexico Student Union Building (Lobo A & B)

Sponsors:  Organized by the Latin American & Iberian Institute

Description:  The LAII was pleased to organize a two-day, interdisciplinary conference which provided a forum for eight of the foremost scholars of the Afro-Ibero Atlantic world to join UNM faculty members to explore questions related to the negotiation of identity, place, difference and categorization within the Early Modern period. The dialogue which emerged from the conference built upon the rich history of colonial studies at the University of New Mexico. The conference was made possible by Dr. Richard E. Greenleaf's generous contribution and support from the LAII's US Department of Education Title VI National Resource Center grant. See the conference flyer for reference.

The conference was held Monday, April 18, 2011 through Tuesday, April 19, 2011 in the University of New Mexico Student Union Building (SUB) in rooms Lobo A & B. The conference program is available as a PDF: Africans and Their Descendants in the Early Modern Ibero-American World. No registration was required. The conference was free and open to the public.

For reference, see the conference flyer.

Panel Descriptions

The conference consisted of four two-hour length panels, each involving two presentations from visiting scholars and moderation by a UNM faculty member.

Panel I: Differences and Meanings of Place Among Africans and Their Descendants in Ibero-America

  • Together people give meaning to and are defined by the geographic locations where they live, constructing a sense of place. Humans collectively create norms about what should and should not be a part of that location, whether it is a rural farm, a town center, a city market, a school, a church or a family home. Communities and societies "perform" place through everyday activities, conversations and formal discourses, establishing conventions that govern the behaviors appropriate to each place. This panel will examine the differences and meanings of place among Africans and their descendants in the Ibero-American colonial world: how they constructed and performed it, how they identified and were identified by it, and how they interacted with the norms governing the meanings of colonial places in differing ways across generations.

Panel 2: Migration, Settlement, and Memories Among Africans and Their Descendants in the Ibero Atlantic

  • As individuals and groups migrate from one geographical area and settle in another, they make connections between the spaces they leave and the spaces to which they travel. In these movements, they engage in processes of transculturation, selectively shedding some beliefs and practices, taking on new ones, and contributing the beliefs and practices that they bring to their new place and society. These processes of change occur within unequal relationships of power. This panel will examine the movement of Africans and their descendants around the Ibero-Atlantic world, with a particular focus on the processes of transculturation, or the diffusion and infusion of symbolic memories, political ideologies and everyday practices into American spaces, noting the particularities of experience defined by race, caste, gender, and calidad.

Panel 3: Blacks and the Politics of Corporate Identity in Ibero-America

  • The conquest of indigenous communities and the establishment of Ibero-American colonial societies produced social and cultural turmoil, as diverse cultural groups engaged with each other in struggles for human dignity and selfdetermination. The formation of identity-based corporations such as confraternities, sodalities, naciones, colored militia and maroon societies among Africans and their descendants played important roles in these struggles. Africans and their descendants in Ibero-America drew on their experiences and memories of African homelands to create new group relationships in the Americas. From the corporate bodies they (re)created in the Americas emerged new and layered identities. This panel will examine the ways in which Africans and their descendants in Ibero-American societies re-created groups and group identities both within and in conflict with Ibero-American institutions.

Panel 4: The Social Production of Difference and Distance and the Lived Responses to Categorization Within Black Ibero-America

  • Governing bodies, religious authorities, and local land- and slave-owners created definitions of difference in the Americas, using terms such as race, caste, republic, and calidad. These differences, in turn, justified Iberian imperial and colonial projects. Groups who were subordinated by these definitions often pushed back or negotiated their relationships to the imposed categories in a fluid exchange of identity definition. From this fluidity emerged renegotiations of the meaning of the differences and distance that the Iberian colonizers attempted to impose. This panel examines how and why social relations become contextualized by structural forces and geographic contexts such that they influence and in turn are influenced by people. Specifically, this panel considers the social production of identity as an interactive process in Ibero-America among between groups who were subordinated, as well as between subordinated groups and Iberian colonizers.

Panelists and Moderators

The LAII welcomed as panelists the following professors from across the United States and Canada.

The following UNM faculty joined the conference sessions as moderators.


The second, third, and fourth conference panels were audio recorded and are available for download as podcasts. To access these recordings, click on the playlist. Please know that technical difficulties prohibited us from recording the first panel.


Dr. Greenleaf

A distinguished scholar of colonial Latin America, Dr. Richard E. Greenleaf has an extensive career in teaching, fesearch, and service. He has been called "one of the most influential historians of colonial Latin America" (Schwaller, 2008) with a sphere of influence that extends across international borders.

Greenleaf's interest in the Southwest and Latin America developed first while he was a child living on a farm beside the Rio Grande and later as a student working through three degrees at the University of New Mexico. Greenleaf obtained a B.A. in Government studies in 1953, an M.A. in Inter-American Affairs in 1954, and finally a Ph.D. in History in 1957. During this time the renowned France V. Scholes served as his notable mentor, contributing substantially to his immersion and understanding of the field (Harbert, 2006). Indeed, the doctoral dissertation, "Zumárraga and the Mexican Inquisition 1536-1543," produced under Scholes' tutelage, "served as the basis for his many excellent publications on the history of the Holy Office of the Inquisition in Latin America" (Chuchiak et al, 2008).

Having studied in Mexico while writing his dissertation, it seemed a natural choice for Greenleaf to decide to move to Mexico City after graduating. He lived there for thirteen years, teaching and researching at Mexico City College, an institution now known as the University of the Amé ricas (Quinn, 2006), as well as serving as the College's Academic Vice-President. Throughout these years Greenleaf continued to write, gradually adding to what is now a substantial corpus of scholarly work.

In 1969, Greenleaf transitioned to Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he cemented his extensive teaching and service record while serving as Director of the Roger Thayer Stone Center for Latin American Studies and as Chair of the Department of History. By the time he retired in 1998, Greenleaf had authored nearly a dozen major books, served as contributor to several more, and written over 50 articles (Chuchiak et al, 2008). Despite this impressive range of scholarship Greenleaf maintains that "The most important contributions I made were students. They say a man is known by his graduate students and where they are teaching" (Schwaller, 2008). Needless to say, Greenleaf has "served as mentor to 34 doctoral students at Tulane, and countless masters and undergraduate students both in the United States and in Mexico" (Chuchiak et al, 2008). Recently, when UNM held a reception in honor of Greenleaf, the event drew "friends, students and colleagues from across the country and Mexico" (UNM Foundation, 2010). Such attendance is clear evidence of his enduring impact.

Since his retirement in 1998 Greenleaf has returned to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he has continued tirelessly to support the teaching, study and research of colonial Latin America at his alma mater. Greenleaf's generous support of "Africans and Their Descendants in the Early Modern Ibero-American World" marks only the most recent contribution in his long dedication to the field.

Planning Committee

The following UNM faculty provided significant input throughout the planning process: Dr. Chris Duvall, Associate Professor, Department of Geography; Dr. Ray Hernández-Durán, Department of Art and Art History; Dr. Kathryn J. McKnight, Department of Spanish & Portuguese / LAII; Dr. Anna Nogar, Department of Spanish & Portuguese; Dr. Eleuterio Santiago-Díz, Department of Spanish and Portuguese. LAII staff oversaw conference logistics.


The symposium is made possible by Dr. Richard E. Greenleaf's generous endowment to the LAII and the LAII's US Department of Education Title VI National Resource Center grant.

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