Brazil, the largest slave society in the Americas, proposed a citizenship in its 1824 Constitution that had no race-based criteria. The nation remained steadfastly committed to slavery, however, importing nearly 800,000 enslaved Africans illegally after the transatlantic slave trade was abolished in 1831. The silences and ambiguities in Brazil’s terms of citizenship were precisely what enabled the nation to exclude Africans and keep many in illegal captivity. I focus on two groups of Africans, those who remained illegally enslaved, and those who had been ‘rescued’ from illegal slave ships and granted special status as ‘Free Africans.’ I compare their condition to that of indigenous Brazilians who were similarly enslaved illegally and excluded from citizenship on implicitly racial terms. By revealing how citizenship denial is integral to the history of freedom, their condition offers a necessary critique to studies of the ‘Age of Emancipation.’
Yuko Miki, Citizens of nowhere: illegal slavery and racial silence in the African and Indigenous histories of Postcolonial Brazil, Citizenship Studies, 2021.
This article forms part of the special issue Citizenship Matters: Assessing the History, Regulation and Lived Experiences of Naturalization from the Global Perspective edited by Elisabeth Badenhoop.