Cassia Roth, assistant professor of History & Latin American and Caribbean studies, has been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship. Roth’s award is among the grants announced by the NEH Dec. 16 to support 213 humanities projects in 44 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
The fellowship will support Roth’s writing a book based on her scholarship, “Birthing Abolition: Enslaved Women, Reproduction, and the Gradual End of Slavery in Nineteenth-Century Brazil.”
This project argues that enslaved women’s reproductive agency shaped the legal parameters of abolition in nineteenth-century Brazil. It traces how enslaved reproduction, and elite efforts to control it, in the early century allowed for later legislation based on captive women’s reproductive bodies. In particular, the threat of reproductive resistance, or abortion and infanticide as purposeful attacks on the institution of slavery, loomed large in the imagination of both pro- and anti-slavery political elites. The project contends that negative biological growth in conjunction with enslaved women’s actions created the space for abolitionists to implement the legal framework that ended slavery.
“Hearing the news was a wonderful surprise and a bright spot in a year that has been trying for everyone,” Roth said. “With the generous support from a Faculty Research Grant from the Willson Center and the Michael Award from Franklin College, I will complete the final research for the project before I take the NEH, which I will use to finish the majority of the writing for the book.”
“Dr. Roth is one of our most accomplished young scholars in the Humanities and it is most welcome news to see her research recognized by the NEH fellowship, a truly significant distinction,” said Martin Kagel, A.G. Steer Professor and associate dean in the Franklin College. “Her scholarship is timely, relevant, and refreshingly interdisciplinary. Linking the discourse around enslaved women’s reproduction to the ultimately successful efforts to end slavery in Brazil requires a broad understanding of nineteenth-century Brazilian public health policies, practices in medicine, legal and political history. Her scholarly efforts to restore agency to enslaved women in Brazil deserve the kind of recognition the NEH provides and I look forward to seeing her project come to fruition.”
Image: Cassia Roth