Greg Childs (Brandeis University)

Greg Childs is an Assistant Professor of History at Brandies University. He researches and teaches in the fields of Latin American, Caribbean, and African Diaspora studies. His first book project, entitled Seditious Spaces, Public Politics: Antiracism, freedom, and sedition in 1798 Bahia, Brazil, provides an in depth examinations of a late eighteenth century movement known as the Tailor’s Conspiracy. Often regarded as the first attempt at a “social revolution” in Brazil, the participants called for an end to Portuguese rule, the extinction of racial discrimination, increases in wages and promotions for soldiers and artisans, and the abolition of slavery in Bahia. Seditious Spaces, Public Politics examines how this movement was orchestrated, organized, and promoted across the physical spaces of the city, emphasizing the relationship between urban geography and the idea of the ‘public’ in the late eighteenth century. The book is thus a contribution to the history of the public sphere in Latin America and to the intellectual history of the African Diaspora.

His next research project, provisionally titled “The Madness of Blacknes: or the Confinement of Freedom in the Post Emancipation Era, traces the development of ideas and practices that linked freedom from slavery with mental insanity across the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The development of this project stems from two observations. On the one hand, planters, officials, and medical personnel throughout the nineteenth century blamed ideas about political independence for “infecting” the minds of otherwise obedient slaves and turning them into would-be rebels. According to this discourse, the desire for freedom induced mental disturbances. On the other hand, movements to abolish slavery in Brazil, Cuba, and the US South from the 1830s onward unfolded alongside the professionalization of psychiatry and pharmacology in Europe and the Americas. In the discourses that accompanied this professionalization, black mental deficiencies were often attributed to assumed biological inferiorities that had not been allowed to evolve due to slavery. I am thus seeking to understand two things. First, why did slavery become a site for debating the relationship between madness and freedom in the phase of nation-state formation? Secondly, how best to try and understand the relationship between discourses of black mental illness and actual health issues affecting people of African descent in post-emancipation Cuba and Brazil?

At Brandeis, he teaches introductory courses at the undergraduate and graduate level on Latin American and Caribbean history; on Slavery, Freedom, and Colonialism in the Americas; on the History of Graffitti; and on Historical Methodologies and Theories

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