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Department of History

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phone: 615-322-5948
123 Benson Hall

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On leave 2013-14


PhD, UC Berkeley, 2008

Celso Thomas Castilho

Assistant Professor of History

Celso Thomas Castilho is an Assistant Professor of History at Vanderbilt University, where he was hired initially as a post-doctoral fellow in 2008.  His research and teaching interests align around the themes of performance and citizenship, racial and gender formations, and comparative slavery and abolition. With Professor Jane Landers, he co-directs the Circum-Atlantic Studies Seminar, funded by the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities.

His first book, "Contending Cultures of Citizenship: Abolition, Political Mobilizations and the Public Sphere in Pernambuco, Brazil, 1866-1889," deals with the making and the consequences of abolitionist mobilizations from the late 1860s through the end of the monarchy in terms of how such collective action, drawing from slave and associational initiatives, recast not only the emancipation debate, but also instigated parallel discussions about citizenship and the boundaries of political participation. This book is, in effect, a political and cultural history of a social movement in late-nineteenth-century Brazil, and is in preparation for submission.

The second book is provisionally entitled, “The Dramas of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in the Americas, 1850s-1880s,” and draws on three case studies—Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City, and Washington, DC—to analyze the links between Uncle Tom performances, racial and gender formations, and the practices of citizenship. It utilizes a hemispheric lens to illuminate how these varied representations fostered the makings of trans-American literary and political imaginaries. At its core, the book sustains that theatrical performances, and the multiple strands of urban life that constituted the world of theater, including, actors and audiences, dramatic and literary associations, and the press deserve serious consideration because they reflected and fed the structuring of social hierarchies in these disparate contexts. This focus also highlights the material and symbolic importance of the theater as a place and practice that changed the codes of political activity and forms of popular political participation over the late-nineteenth century.

Selected Publications

  • Maria Helena P.T. Machado and Celso Thomas Castilho, eds., Tornando-se Livre: agentes históricos e lutas sociais no processo de abolição,(São Paulo: EDUSP, 2014).
    • Celso Thomas Castilho, “Propõe-se a Qualquer Consignação, Menos de Escravos”: o problema da emancipação no Recife, ca. 1870,” in Tornando-se Livre, 274-92.
  • Celso Thomas Castilho, “Performing Abolitionism, Enacting Citizenship: The Social Construction of Political Rights in 1880s Recife, Brazil,” Hispanic American Historical Review 93:3 (August, 2013): 377-410.
  • Celso Castilho and Camillia Cowling, “Funding Freedom, Popularizing Politics: Abolitionism and Local Emancipation Funds in 1880s Brazil,” Luso-Brazilian Review, 47:1 (Spring, 2010): 89-120.

Recent Awards & Fellowships

  • 2012-2013, Fellow, Robert Penn Warren Center Sawyer Seminar Fellow, Age of Emancipation: Black Freedom in the Atlantic World. Vanderbilt University.
  • 2011 Conference of Latin American History Award for Best Article: “Funding Freedom”.
  • 2009 Lewis Hanke Award, AHA/CLAH Post-Graduate Fellowship, Summer, 2010.


  • History of Brazil (undergraduate)
  • Methods and Practice of History (undergraduate)
  • Race and Nation in Latin America (undergraduate)
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin in Hemispheric and Transnational Perspective (forthcoming)
  • Histories and Historiographies of modern Latin America (graduate)
  • Race in the Americas (graduate, forthcoming)
  • Performance and Citizenship in the Americas (graduate, forthcoming)

Celso Thomas Castilho was born in São Paulo, Brazil, and raised in Los Angeles, California. He obtained an MA in Latin American Studies from UCLA, before completing the PhD at UC Berkeley, where he also studied as an undergraduate.