Francisco Bethencourt

ARTICLE: Bethencourt on Creolization and Kongo Agency

“Dutch Ambassadors Greeting the King of Kongo, late 17th cent.,” [Image Reference FER3] as shown on http://www.slaveryimages.org, compiled by Jerome Handler and Michael Tuite, and sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library.

Francisco Bethencourt. “Creolization of the Atlantic World: The Portuguese and the Kongolese.” Portuguese Studies 27, no. 1 (2011): 56–69.

Abstract:
From

In the 1930s, Gilberto Freyre’s praise of mixed-race people in Brazil challenged the idea of white supremacy, contributing to the building of a new Brazilian identity. In the 1950s, Freyre projected the idea of openness and racial mixture onto the Portuguese empire, fuelling Salazar’s colonial propaganda. The idea of Lusotropicalism was contested by Marvin Harris and Charles Boxer, who demonstrated that there were very few mixed-race people in Angola and Mozambique, and exposed the long history of racism in the Portuguese colonies. However, the fashionable notions of hybridism and creolization have been putting Freyre back on the map. The article exposes the limits of Freyre’s approach of inter-ethnic relations, structured around the flexibility (or otherwise) of white colonists. It engages with the much more interesting but problematic approach suggested by Linda Heywood and John Thornton, who shifted to Kongo and African agency the creolization of the Atlantic. It suggests a reassessment of the real Christianization of Kongo and its complex chronology, drawing attention to the royal interests of conversion, the limits of conversion among the population, and the conditions for erosion of Christianity in the long run.

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