Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Theresa Singleton


Brazil, Gilberto Freyre, Historical Archaeology, Race, Slavery, Sugar Plantations

Subject Categories

Anthropology | Arts and Humanities | Classical Archaeology and Art History | Classics | History | Latin American History | Social and Behavioral Sciences


This dissertation investigates the changing landscape of the sugar plantation Monjope in Pernambuco, Brazil from the mid-seventeenth to the end of the twentieth century. I examine this plantation’s changing landscape as part of a number of larger social, economic and environmental forces; in particular the development of racially based labor. Established in the sixteenth century, Monjope was one of the many Brazilian sugar plantations that relied on African slavery for labor until the end of the nineteenth century. I argue the plantation’s built environment in conjunction with the larger plantation landscape was part of a global trend of controlling labor through control of space. Using archival evidence, I examine how enslaved and freed Afro-Brazilian laborers, increasingly used as plantation field labor in the nineteenth century, resisted these trends by creating their own spaces, in particular in urban centers. However, environmental, social and economic changes in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century made the Monjope’s plantation model unsustainable, causing further changes in the built environment. In the wake of the Americas’ largest agricultural laborers strike in 1963, Monjope was converted into a camping club, with the slave quarters becoming bathroom facilities. I argue this process of conversion was part of hegemonic social processes used by the military government’s agencies and Brazilian elites to reframe the history of slavery as benevolent rather than barbaric in order to legitimize policies of the military government’s social repression and maintain the status quo of labor relations. The use of these spaces as a camping club offers insights into the continued divide between Brazil’s elite classes and the Afro-Brazilian laborers. By looking at Monjope’s landscape changes over the centuries, I argue we can see changes in the social structures that maintained the status quo of racial relations in Brazil.


Open Access