"Sertoes temerosos (menacing backlands)": Honor, gender, and violence in a changing world. Ceara, Brazil, 1845-1889
AuthorSantos, Martha Sofia
KeywordsHistory, Latin American.
AdvisorBarickman, Bert J.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis dissertation examines the intersections between honor, violence and social change in the construction of masculine identities among the poor free inhabitants of the semiarid sertao (or backlands) of the Brazilian Northeastern province of Ceara between 1845 and 1889. Calling into question the enduring representation of the sertanejos (or backlanders) as conditioned by a timeless culture to violently defend their honor, this study demonstrates that backlands' notions of honorable manhood and a violent type of masculinity during this period were defined through a complex interaction between social, economic and political transformations, exacerbation of violence as well as cultural concepts of honor. Between 1845 and the mid 1860s, changes in landholding patterns allowed many sertanejos access to land and the ability to participate in the expanding agricultural and cattle-ranching economies of the province. As small farmers and ranchers, sertanejos articulated a notion of masculine honor that was linked to their autonomy in their economic activities, ability to provide for their families, and patriarchal control of women at home. Beginning in the mid 1860s, a new series of social-economic transformations disrupted the small farmers' and ranchers' fragile survival system, exercised great pressure on social relations, and exacerbated masculine violence. Indeed, violence became the primary means through which increasingly dislocated sertanejos attempted to solve a variety of conflicts ranging from defending resources to earning a livelihood. In this context, masculine honor became more closely linked with violence. Poor young men who were unable to establish their honor through other means turned to violence as a way to assert their manhood. Men cast their acts of aggression against an increasingly visible group of autonomous women who lived outside of male control as an attempt to reestablish a patriarchal order and, thereby, secure their honor. The process of Imperial State formation in the backlands was another significant factor in the normalization of a notion of honor that was contingent on a capacity for violence. Between 1850 and 1889, the expansion of institutions of social control that relied on armed sertanejos as agents of the State intensified violent conflict and contributed to the incitement of violent masculinities among the poor.
Degree ProgramGraduate College