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Adela Amaral

Assistant Professor

Office: Washington Hall 116
Email: [[alamaral]]
Areas of Specialization: Historical anthropology and archaeology, colonialism, Afro-Atlantic world, race, black racial slavery and marronage, material ethnography, social geography and spatial practice, Mexico


My research attempts to characterize black experiences in Mexico using a multi-method program that blends historical anthropology, archaeology, and ethnography to reconstruct how social worlds, including “natural” environments, were materially constructed for African descended populations as well as how these worlds were made and experienced by them. Through historical anthropology and archaeology, my research examines the relationships between race and material practices in colonial Mexico and in Mexico’s colonial present. Focusing on black slavery and marronage in Veracruz during the 17th and 18th centuries, I consider how social categories are ideologically and materially created and investigate the racialized experiences of the organization and use of space, built environments, and objects. I investigate how divisions between categories of identity and their material correlates are confused and destabilized in daily practice.

My work is based on extensive archival research and excavations in Amapa—a town in the state of Oaxaca founded in 1769 by black runaway slaves who fled sugar plantation slavery in present-day Veracruz. I view marronage in colonial Mexico through the lens of ruin and failure and track how officials failed to contain black slaves within an ideal social and geographic design. Instead, African-descended people re-mapped the official colonial geo-social geography and bent the colonial order of things.

My research interests, however, extend to the present, as colonial understandings of indigenous and black populations influence contemporary ideas about race and nation in Mexico. I follow colonial efforts to register black populations into modern Mexico and examine how racial geographies are constructed in the present. I also consider how the political failures of the colonial past extend into Amapa’s present in the form of structural ruins left behind by state projects. 

  • PhD University of Chicago  2015
Courses Taught
  • ANTH 201 Introduction to Archaeology
  • ANTH 311 Colonialism, Slavery, & Rebellion
  • ANTH 317 Insurgent Geographies
  • ANTH 318 Racialized Bodies & Places
  • ANTH 421 The Archive

2019   “Contesting Temporalities in a Historical Runaway Slave Town. Mexico 1769 to the Present”. Journal of Contemporary Archaeology 6(1): 47-63.

2017   “Social geographies, the practice of marronage, and the archaeology of absence in colonial Mexico”. Archaeological Dialogues 24(2): 207-223.