Sidney Chalhoub

Sidney Chalhoub

Department Chair
David and Peggy Rockefeller Professor of History and of African and African American Studies
Faculty Affiliate, Department of Romance Languages and Literatures
Picture of Sidney Chalhoub

Office Hours: Wednesday 1:00-3:00pm, or by appointment;

Sidney Chalhoub taught history at the University of Campinas, Brazil, for thirty years. He moved to Harvard in July 2015. A social historian of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Brazil, his first  monograph, Trabalho, lar e botequim (1986), is a study on working-class culture in Rio de Janeiro, based mostly on the analysis of homicide trial records. Visões da liberdade (1990) explores enslaved people’s petitions for freedom and other judicial cases to understand the role of the enslaved in bringing about the demise of slavery in Brazil. Cidade febril (1996) is a history of epidemics in nineteenth-century Rio de Janeiro, focusing on public health policies regarding housing for the poor, on how race informed medical thinking, and on popular resistance to smallpox vaccination. Machado de Assis, historiador (2003) analyzes slavery, race, and the politics of literature in the work of the most important Brazilian novelist of all times. A força da escravidão (2012) investigates the practices of illegal enslavement and the precariousness of freedom in nineteenth-century Brazil.

Chalhoub co-edited, with former students and colleagues, six volumes on different topics and approaches to the social history of Brazil: on how to read literature as a social historian; on Black thinkers and their critique of slavery and racial ideologies; on the political cultures of enslaved and “free” workers; on the arts of healing, medical and popular. He has recently edited, accompanied by detailed critical studies, two long-forgotten nineteenth-century books: Fantina, cenas da escravidão, by Duarte Badaró (first published in 1881; critical edition in 2019), which is a novel about the alleged social and legal seigneurial prerogative to sexually abuse enslaved women; História e descrição da febre amarela, by Pereira Rego (1851; critical edition, 2020), is a history of the first yellow fever epidemic in Rio de Janeiro told from the perspective of an author who fought against the disease as a medical practitioner and as a member of the city’s board of health.

Chalhoub has supervised 31 completed doctoral dissertations, 23 master’s theses, and 30 senior theses. He has been a Visiting Professor at the University of Michigan, a Tinker Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago, and a research fellow at Stanford University and in the International Research Center “Work and Human Lifecycle in Global History” (Re:work) at Humboldt Universität, Berlin.  He has served departments and university administrations in several capacities, perhaps most notably as director (1998-2008) of the Arquivo Edgard Leuenroth at the University of Campinas, the most important archive of its kind for gathering materials on twentieth-century Brazilian social movements. He was a founder of and remains associated with the Centro de Pesquisa em História Social da Cultura (CECULT), University of Campinas. Chalhoub was chair of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) fact-finding delegation sent to Brazil to report on the impeachment of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff (2016) and is currently president of the Brazilian Studies Association, BRASA.

In a recent interview to the Journal of Global Slavery, he spoke about his trajectory as a historian of slavery. A selection of his publications in English appears below.

“Rediscovering a Masterpiece in a New Translation: The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas, by Machado de Assis”, Transition: The Magazine of Africa and the Diaspora, Issue 130, 2020, pp. 222-29.

"The Great Fear of 1852: Riots Against Enslavement in the Brazilian Empire", in Ulbe Bosma e Karin Hofmeester, eds., Marcel van der Linden: The Lifework of a Labour Historian, Leiden, Brill, 2018, pp. 115-135.

"The Legacy of Slavery: Tales of Gender and Racial Violence in Machado de Assis", in Lamonte Aidoo and Daniel F. Silva, eds., Emerging Dialogues on Machado de Assis, London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016, pp. 55-69.

“The Politics of Ambiguity: Conditional Manumission, Labor Contracts and Slave Emancipation in Brazil (1850s to 1888)”, International Review of Social History, August 2015, pp. 161-191.

“The Precariousness of Freedom in a Slave Society (Brazil in the Nineteenth Century)”, International Review of Social History, December 2011, pp. 405-39.

“Illegal Enslavement and the Precariousness of Freedom in Nineteenth-century Brazil”, in John D. Garrigus e Christopher Morris, Assumed Identities: The Meanings of Race in the Atlantic World, College Station, Texas A&M University Press, 2010, pp. 88-115.

“The Politics of Silence: Race and Citizenship in Nineteenth-century Brazil”, Slavery and Abolition, vol. 27 (1), 2006, pp. 71-85.

“Interpreting Machado de Assis: Paternalism, Slavery and the Free Womb Law”,  in Sueann Caulfield, Sarah C. Chambers e Lara Putnam, eds., Honor, Status and Law in Modern Latin America, Durham & London, Duke University Press, 2005, pp. 87-108.

“What Are Noses for? Paternalism, Social Darwinism and Race Science in Machado de Assis”, Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies, vol. 10 (2), 2001, pp. 171-191.

"The Politics of Disease Control: Yellow Fever and Race in Nineteenth-century Rio de Janeiro", Journal of Latin American Studies, vol. 25 (3), 1993, pp. 441-463.


Contact Information

Robinson Hall, Room 212
35 Quincy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
p: 617-495-3551

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