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Hal Langfur (History): “Making the Wilderness Wild: Misadventures in the Backlands of Colonial Brazil”

Scholars at AK

Friday, September 17, 2010, 4 pm

With the UB Humanities Institute and riverrun

AK café

In this study, I examine a series of wilderness expeditions in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to gauge the accomplishments, limitations, transformation, and ultimate dissolution of Portugal’s colonial enterprise as it stretched from Lisbon across the Atlantic deep into the Brazilian interior. Expedition leaders carried royal orders to round up runaway slaves, attack independent native peoples, crush contraband rings, secure agricultural lands, unearth gold and diamond deposits, transport captive laborers to new mineral strikes, and conduct scientific surveys. Once underway, however, these missions shifted toward objectives unanticipated by the Portuguese Crown, sometimes in direct opposition to its policies. Hence, my thesis, which posits a colonial state cast adrift as it sought to project authority into remote expanses where its influence became increasingly attenuated. As such, Brazil can be situated within a broader hemispheric process in which power was both deployed and challenged at distances well beyond the consolidated limits of colonial and then national states.

Hal Langfur specializes in the history of colonial Brazil and the early modern Atlantic world. His research focuses on frontier social, cultural, and political collaboration and conflict. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Texas.

This series transforms AK café into an “intellectual salon,” joining the University at Buffalo and the center of cultural life in the city. Scholars at AK features lectures by UB faculty who have been awarded Humanities Institute fellowships and provides an opportunity for the University and the Buffalo community to build connections through conversation.

Admission is free. Complimentary hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar are available.