Maria Barreiros Almeida Reis

PhD Candidate

Latin America and the Caribbean

My dissertation is a history of Portuguese notions of different enslaved populations’ ‘capacities to work.’ I show how, throughout the history of colonial Brazil, settlers, missionaries, and colonial officials debated the differences in the skills, capacities, and proclivities among the various populations subjected to enslavement. These conversations essentialized these populations by placing them in hierarchies of “capacities to work”, generally favoring African over indigenous workers, Angolan slaves over West Africans one. However, when faced with new economic contexts and new empirical realities, these discourses had to be translated and reconceptualized. My dissertation traces how these discourses developed, unpacking to what extent they responded to skilled practices of indigenous and African peoples witnessed on-the-ground. I offer three case studies in which these discourses were disrupted: Dutch Brazil, Amazonia, and Minas Gerais. I work with sources in Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch.

Research Interests

  • Slavery
  • Early Modern Atlantic Empires
  • Race and Racial Thinking

Prizes and Awards

Bancroft Library Meylan Fellowship, University of California, Berkeley, Spring & Fall 2023

Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Award, Spring & Fall 2022 

Global, International and Area Studies John L. Simpson ABD Fellowship, University of California, Berkeley, 2021

FLAS Academic Year Award (Dutch), University of California, Berkeley, 2019

IIS Pre-Dissertation Summer Research Grant, University of California, Berkeley, 2019

CLAS Summer Field Research Award, University of California, Berkeley, 2019

Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award, University of California, Berkeley, 2019

Graduate Dean’s Summer Research Grant, University of California, Berkeley, 2018

Laidlaw Undergraduate Research Scholarship, University of St Andrews, 2016

University Scholarship for Research and Leadership, University of St Andrews, 2016