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Race in the Archives (Mira Kafantaris)

December 2, 2020 - 12:00pm to 1:15pm
Mira Kafantaris

Whiteness, Futurity, and the Spoils of Empire in the Archive of the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance

n 1662, the Portuguese and Catholic Catherine of Braganza, queen consort to Charles II, sailed from Lisbon to Portsmouth aboard The Royal Charles, revamping the traditional rhetoric of royal lineage and pure bloodlines that justify indivisible, absolute power. We are accustomed to reading premodern royal marriage as a facet of geopolitical diplomacy, the product of war and peace, conflict and conciliation, whereby the embodied foreign queen functions as an extractable resource made valuable through the purity of noble blood, circulation of material wealth, and the propagation of royal lines. But the frame I offer in my talk is motivated by a reparative desire to uncover the intimate link between royal marriage and the spoils of empire--stolen land, forced labor, and accumulated resources—and a fantasy to achieve absolute humanity, or whiteness, and secure its futurity. To do so, I adopt the Black philosopher Alexander Ghedi Weheliye’s ontology of “not-quite-human” to theorize the new queen’s reception in England. More specifically, I will show how the wave of encomium inaugurating Catherine of Braganza’s queenship is laced in the vocabulary of racial cleansing and preoccupied with white futurity, which reveals an anxiety about the Portuguese queen’s genealogical connections to Africa, on the one hand, and lionizes her implication in Portugal’s colonial project, on the other.
Bio of the speaker
Dr Mira Assaf Kafantaris is a Senior Lecturer in the English Department at the Ohio State University. She is completing a book manuscript, titled Royal Marriage, Foreign Queens, and Constructions of Race in the Early Modern Period, which argues that representations of foreign royal women, alongside bonds of kinship and theories of matrimony, drive early modern racial formations. She is co-editing, with Sonja Drimmer and Treva B. Lindsey, a Special Issue of Barnard Center for Research on Women’s The Scholar and Feminist Online, titled "Race-ing Queens." Her scholarly and public-facing work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Ben JonsonThe Palgrave Handbook of Shakespeare’s QueensRace and/as Affect in Early Modern Literature, The Millions, Overland JournalThe RamblingThe ConversationSynapsis, and Medium-Equity. Currently, she is the recipient of the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies short-term residency.
Bio of the respondent:
Carol Mejia LaPerle is Professor and Honors Advisor for the English Department of Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. Her projects have been supported by Wright State University’s Research Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the National Humanities Center, Ohio Humanities, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In addition to publishing on topics related to early modern theatre and contemporary adaptations of Shakespeare, she teaches and writes about renaissance rhetoric, philosophies of will, theories of affect, and constructions of race and gender in early modern culture. She is editing a forthcoming collection of essays entitled Race and Affect in Early Modern English Literature under contract with Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (ACMRS). Her monograph-in-progress,Dark Will: Race, Affect, and Volition in William Shakespeare, examines philosophies of will and formations of race. 
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