Dana Professor Jennifer Jolly publishes on race and caste in 19th century Mexico

By Paul Wilson, August 30, 2023

Jennifer Jolly, Dana Professor of Art History, has published her essay, “José María Morelos, Brownness, and the Visibility of Race in Nineteenth-Century Mexico,” in the journal Estudios Mexicanos/Mexican Studies.

Jolly uses visual and historical representations of Independence hero Morelos to examine the layering of emergent racial logics over earlier caste-based hierarchies, and the visual technologies that supported these systems of thought.  Morelos has been described as Spanish, mestizo, mulato, and moreno—a wide range of what today we think of as racial descriptors.  During Morelos’s lifetime, caste (lineage) remained the most significant signifier of status; however, emerging ideas regarding physiognomy, empiricism, and the bodily manifestation of racial character enabled competing assertions about Morelos’s race by midcentury. In the later nineteenth century, ethnohistorical notions of race began to emerge, allowing race to serve as an allegory of Mexico’s body politic. In this final phase, the idea of Brownness emerged as a foil to mestizaje: a national body politic that created space for mixtures inclusive of Afro-Mexicans.

The essay is available here.