To each seaport its 'sertão': processes of cultural and social construction of hinterland spaces throughout the Lusophone Atlantic (19-20th centuries)

João Figueiredo (CEIS20 - Universidade de Coimbra)
Joel Andrade (Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte)
Prof. Dr. Durval Albuquerque Júnior (UFRN - Brazil)
Bloco 1, Sala 1.12
Start time:
14 July, 2017 at 9:30
Session slots:

Short abstract:

Coastal hubs depend as much on maritime trade routes as on their own hinterlands. This is a constitutive bond in economic, social, cultural, and conceptual terms. One cannot think about seaports without considering their backlands. How were these imagined, delimited and socially constructed?

Long abstract:

The Black Atlantic, the South Atlantic, the Lusophone Atlantic - these terms allude to assemblages of distant shorelines, imagined as a coherent whole only by virtue of continuous sea-borne interactions. But can any of these spaces be properly analyzed without taking into account the constituent relationship each coastal territory also has with its hinterland? We propose to host a discussion about the historical processes at the origin of specific notions of backlands. Concepts like 'sertão' were often employed by coastal urban elites in order to theorize, order, derogate and better rule their inland neighbors. The history of the creation of 'sertões' is thus an indispensable counterpart to that of the emergence of globalized seaside trade and cultural hubs. Different academic disciplines partook in the construction of specific notions of hinterland: from geography and history to linguistics, anthropology and folkloristics. We encourage the submission of case studies which take this interdisciplinary heritage into account. Key questions include: how were notions of physical and temporal distance manipulated by coastal elites? Who were the intermediaries between inland communities and seaports? Which role did migrations play in this differentiation process? How where the imaginaries which sustained these spaces maintained? Was their opposition seen as echoing the division between modernity and tradition? Did literature play role in articulating boundaries? How did the inhabitants of the hinterlands embody their 'otherness'? Was it expressed in terms of gender? Was it conceived as a lack of civilization or ethnic/racial difference? Where hinterlands positively valuated and imagined as freer utopias?