Welcoming New Faculty: Q & A with Dr. Mariana P. Candido

In the fall of 2020 the Emory History Department welcomed Dr. Mariana P. Candido, a specialist in West Central African history during the era of the transatlantic slave trade. In the latest installment of our “Welcoming New Faculty” series, Acting Associate Professor Candido offers a glimpse into her research and teaching along with the factors that drew her to Emory.

Tell us about the focus of your research and principal current project. 

I am a specialist in West Central African history, nowadays Angola, during the era of the transatlantic slave trade. My research interests include forced migrations, colonialism, empire building, gender, slave trade and slavery, as well as their afterlives in contemporary societies. My work examines the economic, social, and political impact of the transatlantic slave trade in Angola.

I have written on the history of Benguela and its connection to inland African states. In my book, An African Slaving Port and the Atlantic World: Benguela and its hinterland (2013), I focus on the history of Benguela and its population from the early seventeenth century to the mid-nineteenth century. I show how Benguela’s conquest and colonialism was linked to Portuguese trade interests in Asia and informed by experiences with Native American populations in Brazil. The expansion of colonialism and the slave trade led to a series of political, economic, and social transformations, which I examine in this study. Populations living along the coast and in the interior of Benguela went through profound changes during the 300 years of their involvement in the transatlantic slave trade. I examine processes of capture and the legal mechanisms captives used to resist their enslavement. In my first book, Fronteras de la Esclavización: esclavitud, comércio e identidad en Benguela, 1780-1850 (2011), translated into Portuguese and published in Angola in 2018, I explore demographic effects of the transatlantic slave trade on the populations that remained within West Central Africa during the 1780-1850 period. This book was based on my doctoral dissertation, where I examined the expansion of slavery and enslavement in Benguela’s interior, the emergence of new commercial elites, and changes associated with the heavy concentration of women in West Central African societies.

I have also co-edited several volumes and guest edited a special issue for African Economic History and Estudos Ibero-Americanos, both with Eugénia Rodrigues (University of Lisbon, Portugal). I organized and edited African Women in the Atlantic World. Property, Vulnerability and Mobility, 1660-1880 (2019), with Adam Jones. This book brings together scholars from Africa, North and South America, and Europe to show the ways in which African women participated in economic, social, and political spaces in Atlantic coastal societies. Focusing on diversity and change, and going beyond the study of wealthy merchant women, the contributors examine the role of petty traders and enslaved women in communities from Sierra Leone to Benguela. I also co-edited Laços Atlânticos: África e africanos durante a era do comércio transatlântico de escravos, with Carlos Liberato, Paul Lovejoy and Renée Soulodre-La France. Contributors of this book examine the role of Africans in forging economic and social links across the Atlantic. The book was published in Luanda, in 2017, which is crucial for me. It is imperative to increase dialogue with African based scholars and this can only happen when scholarship is made available in languages other than English. I have also organized with Paul Lovejoy and Ana Lucia Araujo, Crossing Memories: Slavery and African Diaspora (2011), bringing together scholars who work on slavery and its legacies in Africa and the Americas.  

I finished a new book, Wealth and Accumulation in Angola, which examines the history of dispossession, property, consumption and inequality in Angola, 1700s-1900s.  This study challenges a set of assumptions that views property and ownership rights as a stable set of European ideas associated with the Enlightenment, civilization, and modernity, which African actors were unable to comprehend, or at least faced difficulty in exercising rights due to their attachment to another way of expressing wealth, i.e., the accumulation of dependents. In this study, I examine how West Central African societies also had concepts of ownership that clashed, molded, and adapted to new ideas introduced by colonialism. By the early nineteenth century European notions of property were not stable and well defined, and it was in the processes of implementing them in their colonies that a range of ideas pertaining to individual property systems emerged.

While waiting for reviews on Wealth and Accumulation in Angola, I started working on my next book project, “Women in Angolan History, 1550-1880,” which will keep me busy in the next few years.

Besides these book projects, in collaboration with Dr. Mariana Dias Paes of the Max Planck Institute, Frankfurt, and Juelma Matos at the Universidade Katyavala Bwila, Benguela, we have organized an inventory of the historical documents available at the Tribunal da Província de Benguela, in Angola: a Court House storage room. The inventory will be published with a long introduction on the legal history of Angola. História e Direito em Angola: a documentação do Tribunal da Comarca de Benguela will be co-published by the Max Planck Institute and the Universidade Katyavala Bwila. It will be the first publication about the subject in Angolan history.

What was a particularly memorable moment from archival or field research that has had a lasting impact on your work or career?

I have had so many good experiences doing archival research in Angola, Portugal, and Brazil. Finding historical documents where we can get a glimpse of the daily lives of women in the past, or enslaved individuals, is always a good moment. Finding people, particularly African women, in different archives is a very rewarding moment that allows historians to put pieces together and include more voices and experiences in our narratives.

Angola had a long anticolonial war, followed by over 30 years of civil war, which ended in 2002. The first time at had access to the documents at the Tribunal da Província de Benguela, in 2003, I was overwhelmed by the amount of historical legal cases available. Nineteenth century legal cases laid in a storeroom, alongside seized weapons, including a grenade, and cleaning products. As a young graduate student, it was exciting, as well as scary, to have access to these documents and read postmortem inventories, wills, and legal disputes involving so many West Central Africans, including many women. Yet, I never really engaged with these documents until five years ago, when I started working closely with the faculty at the Katyavala Bwila University, in Angola. At that point, Dr. Mariana Dias Paes, Max Plank Institute, accepted the challenge to identify over 2,000 legal records, and, in collaboration with Juelma Matos, UKB, we have been working together for the past four years in this inventory project. Our goal is to bring more attention to the collection and help other scholars interested in working on the legal history of Angola.  

Visiting places about which I have read, and sometimes, written can also be very emotional. As someone born in Brazil, my first trip to Portugal and Angola, while working on my PhD dissertation were crucial. In one of my trips to Angola, I had the chance to visit Caconda, a place I have written about. Caconda was a major market for the commerce of human beings until the late 19th century, however, nowadays, it is reduced to a small village, devastated after 40 years of civil war in Angola. Meeting people and listening to their stories of displacement and personal losses in recent decades made me think about the hundreds of thousands of people who crossed Caconda centuries earlier to be sold in Benguela and transported to the Americas. It is hard, visiting slave markets, ports, beaches, not to think about those who were there before, under very different circumstances.

What sort of courses – undergraduate or graduate – are you most excited to offer at Emory?

I am currently teaching a freshman course, “Images of Africa,” and an advanced seminar, “Slavery and Abolition in Africa.” I am excited to teach courses on Women in African history; the Transatlantic Slave Trade, Precolonial African History, African Urban History, and the emergence of the Black Atlantic; as well as seminars on Slavery and the Law in Africa; Gender and Sexuality in African history; Gender and Empire Building; among other courses.

What drew you to Emory?

Emory has a very strong African history program, so I have established virtual and in-person debates with several Emory faculty for a long time. So, it is a great honor to work alongside faculty whose work I have admired for a long time. Edna Bay and Kristin Mann, now emeritus faculty, are two giants in the African history field, so it is intimidating, but also inspiring, to be in the same department. Besides, collaborating, teaching, and working alongside Adriana Chira, Clifton Crais, Walter Rucker, and Pamela Scully, makes this a special place. Aside from the geographical affinity, my work intersects and overlaps with the expertise of several history department faculty, including several colleagues working on legal history, empire building and gender, the links between slave trade, slavery and capitalism, and the legacies of slavery. In many ways, the history department has had a long commitment to the history of Africa and the slave trade: this is crucial to me. 

Beyond the history department, as someone who works on Angola and the Lusophone world, it is wonderful to have a strong Portuguese program at Emory. The prospect of working with Ana Catarina Teixeira also makes Emory a very attractive place. The Institute of African Studies, bringing together incredible faculty, is also an important intellectual space for exchange and community building.