Yuko Miki is a historian of slavery in Brazil and the Iberian Atlantic World. Her book, Frontiers of Citizenship: A Black and Indigenous History of Postcolonial Brazil (Cambridge University Press, 2018; paperback 2019) demonstrates how the intersecting histories of the African diaspora and the indigenous Americas were foundational to the formation of race, citizenship, and nation in nineteenth-century Brazil. Through a critical reading of various archives, it challenges a well-established historical narrative—perpetuated by many scholars—that Indian “disappearance” paved the way for the emergence of African diasporic nations in Latin America, particularly Brazil. To understand the fundamental issues that postcolonial Latin American nations confronted—slavery and abolition, the unequal access to citizenship, and constructions of racialized difference and national identity—Dr. Miki argues that it is essential to foreground the lives of both black and indigenous people. Her book presents new methodological and conceptual avenues to bring their histories into full dialogue. You can listen to her New Books Network interview and read a profile of her work in the Fordham News.
Frontiers of Citizenship received Honorable Mention for the Best Book Prize from the 19th -Century Section of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) in 2019. Her article,“Fleeing into Slavery: The Insurgent Geographies of Brazilian Quilombolas (Maroons), 1880-1881,” an expanded version of which is in the book, received the LASA Brazil Section Best Article Prize and the Coordinating Council for Women in History (CCWH) Nupur Chaudhuri Prize for Best First Article. She has also authored works in English and Portuguese that have appeared in edited volumes and journals including The Americas; Slavery & Abolition; and Social Text.
Dr. Miki is currently working on a new book project, Brazilian Atlantic: Stories of Illegal Slavery (working title). It is a history of the women, men, and children whose lives became enmeshed in the networks of illegal slavery in the nineteenth-century Atlantic World linking Brazil with the U.S. North, West and West Central Africa, Cuba, Great Britain, and Portugal. The book weaves together past and present, historical characters and archival encounters into a single narrative. Drawing on methods of literary analysis and archival ethnography, the book departs from the quantitative approaches informing many studies of the slave trade. Dr. Miki argues that the gaps and contradictions in the historical records are themselves constitutive of the history of illegal slavery. By doing so, this project proposes a new way of writing about the ambiguous histories of slavery and freedom that resists the sweeping narrative of the “Age of Emancipation” and foregrounds the suffering and afterlives of the enslaved.
Dr. Miki’s interest in interrogating disciplinary boundaries and practices informs another project in progress, tentatively entitled “To Tame or to Kill: Healing the Affliction of Slavery in Nineteenth-Century Brazil,” which she is co-authoring with Africana religions scholar Ras Michael Brown. This project examines a Kongo-based secret society called Pemba in mid-nineteenth-century Brazil. By exploring the Pemba members’ intent to “tame” the violence of slavery, this project investigates how African epistemologies can radically redefine the ways in which we understand insurrection and resistance, whose archives are shaped by the logics of racial slavery.
Dr. Miki’s work has been supported by the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York Public Library, where she was a long-term Lapidus scholar-in-residence; Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center; and the American Philosophical Society, among others. She received her B.A. (magna cum laude) from Brown University and a M.A. and Ph.D. from New York University. Prior to joining Fordham, she was Assistant Professor of Latin American History at Washington University in St. Louis.