Harcourt Fuller, Ph.D.
The scholarship on the African Diaspora in the Americas, the “Black Atlantic” or the Atlantic World, especially in Brazil, Cuba and the United States, is well established. However, the historical and contemporary experiences of peoples of African ancestry in the Pacific littoral of South America, particularly in the contiguous countries of Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, have long been neglected in the literature. While recent works such as Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s Black in Latin America book and documentary series explores some of these experiences, more work needs to be done in this area.
Dr. Fuller is interested in the history of slavery, resistance, abolition and the post-manumission experiences of blacks in Peru; plantation life and the haciendas of coastal Peru; black life in colonial Peru; the role of blacks in the Peruvian War of Independence; the intersections of race, class, the economy and citizenship in colonial and contemporary Peru; socio-economic dependency and the commodification of slavery at historical sites; class distinctions within the Afro-Peruvian community; as well as the formation of an Afro-Peruvian ethno-national identity in contemporary Peru.
He is working on a research project is entitled Staging Identity, Constructing Community: Artists, Ethno-Historians and the African Diaspora in Peru. It seeks to analyze the historical and contemporary processes of community building and identity formation in coastal Peru, where peoples of African ancestry have existed since 1527. Among the main protagonists in these processes are visual and performing artists, political activists and ethno-historians, such as the 19th century Afro-Peruvian aquarellist Pancho Fierro, who depicted the daily customs, professions and ways of life of black Peruvians through postcard-sized paintings. Fierro’s aquarelles paint a picture of a community of negros identified by a common continental (African) ancestry, experience of servitude and survival on the arid Peruvian coast, and a shared affinity for the visual and performing arts (especially music), family and community life.
Since the Second World War and contemporarily, other artists and ethno-historians such as Nicómedez Santa Cruz, Perú Negro, and Susana Baca have spearheaded an Afro-Peruvian Civil Rights Movement and cultural Renasimiento, taking up the mantle of articulating an identity that was peculiar to Peru’s ebony-hued communities. In the 1990s, the theatrical company Grupo Karibu popularized and highlighted the contradictions and virtues of the Afro-Peruvian community by acting out issues of black identity and social exclusion on stage and in the public media.
Building on the work of these pioneers in the contemporary context, Afro-Peruvian political activists such as the Francisco Congo Black Movement have been tackling racial discrimination and the socio-economic neglect of Afro-Peruvian communities through sustained political agitations, public educational campaigns and self-esteem workshops in Afro-Peruvian pueblos. The study makes use of Peruvian and American archival material, field interviews in the black communities of Lima, El Carmen, Chincha and other towns, 19th century Peruvian art, museological research, and secondary sources.
This research was originally funded by a grant from the Institute for Research on the African Diaspora in the Americas & the Caribbean (IRADAC), and the U.S. Department of Education's R.E. McNair Summer Research Fellowship.