Santos named Santander Visiting Scholar at Harvard


Associate Professor of History Martha Santos

 Martha Santos, associate professor of history, will be spending the fall semester at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., researching, teaching and writing as Santander Visiting Scholar at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies (DRCLAS). 

Dr. Santos'  ongoing "distinguished" work on female slaves in South America and her plans for future research are the reasons she was chosen for one of the dozen visiting scholar positions at the center this fall, according to Harvard. The title of  Santander Scholar marks Santos as one of the "leading scholars" of Latin America in the world.

The semester gives the scholars access to Harvard’s extensive research libraries and materials to focus on a particular project, but they are also expected to engage with Harvard students, share with other faculty members and contribute to the DRCLAS community.

The David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University works to increase knowledge of the cultures, economies, histories, environment and contemporary affairs of Latin America; to foster cooperation and understanding among the peoples of the Americas; and to contribute to democracy, social progress and sustainable development throughout the hemisphere.

DRCLAS has played a critical role in establishing Harvard as a leading United States institution for Latin American studies.

"The thought of being surrounded by all that wonderful material in the Brazilian collections at Harvard and by all those scholars dedicated to Latin American studies  is incredibly exciting,” said Santos, who is writing a book on female slaves in a remote northeastern province of Brazil from 1814 to 1884.

According to Santos, who has already conducted research on the lives of female slaves in Latin America, Brazil was the most significant destination for African slaves in the Americas with a slave population much larger than that of the United States. Even after the United States had abolished slavery, the slave trade in Brazil continued until 1888.

The research she plans to do at Harvard compares the lives of female slaves to male slaves in the hinterlands of the province of Ceará. While some communities relied mainly on the labor of females slaves, others had larger contingents of male slaves, especially young ones.  Santos is interested in examining the various factors that motivated slaveholders in different communities to rely mainly on female or male labor and exactly what jobs those slaves were doing. It is her thesis that because of the burdens of motherhood and the reliance on female slaves to repopulate the slave force in Ceará during the decline of slavery in the 19th Century,  female slaves had more complex roles and performed a greater variety of tasks than male slaves.

“Not only did the women do field labor like men, but they had to deal with particular issues such as raising children -- their own and their masters' -- and becoming victims of sexual assault that men did not have to cope with," said Santos, who is currently doing research in Brazil.

Santos will continue her sabbatical during the spring semester to finish the work she plans to focus on at Harvard. She'll return to  her position at UA in the fall of 2014.