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Aquilombando: Rebellious Landscapes and Colonial Visuality

October 28, 2013 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

Portrait image of Matthew Rarey wearing glasses and a T-Shirt with the word "Brasil" on it

Monday Seminar

Matthew Francis Rarey

Dana-Allen Dissertation Fellow (2013-2014)

Art History, UW-Madison


Quilombos – communities of self-emancipated or fugitive slaves – were ubiquitous accompaniments to Brazil’s history of plantation slavery. Nearly every quilombo that existed in Brazil during the colonial period met its end through invasion and razing at the hands of the Portuguese. I suggest one of the reasons for such repression was the presence of gardens and agricultural plots inside quilombos: fugitive practices that rendered visible colonial visuality’s use of gardening, plantations, and the institution of slavery as ways to naturalize imperial power. To make this argument, I focus on revealing moments of ambivalence on the nature of landscape and imperial authority, including an attempt in 1744 to “de-infest” the countryside of quilombos by cultivating all available land before the quilombos’ inhabitants could; a 1796 account of the destruction of the quilombos of Orobô and Andaraí that counts subsistence crops alongside captured slaves; and the 1763 map of the quilombo Buraco do Tatú, and the labeling of its gardens with a large “F,” the same mark branded into the flesh of captured fugitive slaves. As such, following Aimé Césaire’s poetic 1954 provocation, I re-cast quilombo as aquilombando – a noun-to-gerund shift in Portuguese that conveys “quilombo” as a dynamic mobile praxis that moves across cities, plantations, and the countryside, re-landscaping concepts of slavery, race, and imperial visuality along its way.


Matthew Francis Rarey is a Dana-Allen Dissertation Fellow and Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Art History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Always eager to foster transdisciplinary collaborations and collisions, Rarey also maintains active affiliations with the African Studies Program, the Center for Visual Cultures, the Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies Program, and the McPherson Eye Research Institute. Rarey’s research, teaching, and writing broadly span the history and theory of visuality and performativity in the black Atlantic world. His work has appeared in Theorizing Visual Studies: Writing Through the Discipline (Routledge, 2012) and is forthcoming in African Heritage and the Memory of Slavery in Brazil and the South Atlantic World (Cambria Press) and Romantic Circles Praxis Series. Rarey’s current dissertation project has garnered wide support, including the 2010 Joaquim Nabuco Award from the UW Brazil Initiative; the 2011 James R. Scobie Memorial Award from the Conference on Latin American History; a 2011 UW-Madison Chancellor’s Fellowship; and a 2012-2013 CLIR Mellon Fellowship for Dissertation Research in Original Sources.


October 28, 2013
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
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University Club, Room 212
432 East Campus Mall
Madison, Wisconsin 53703 United States