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Celso Thomas Castilho

Assistant Professor of History

Celso Thomas Castilho’s research focuses on Latin America and the Atlantic world, with an emphasis on the histories of slavery and emancipation, print culture and the public sphere, and the African diaspora. His first book, Slave Emancipation and Transformations in Brazilian Political Citizenship (Pittsburgh, 2016), takes a political and cultural approach to the process of abolition, and establishes the enslaved’s wide-ranging initiatives for freedom as constitutive of broader shifts in political practice. As such, Castilho argues that the competing mobilizations for and against the ending of slavery sparked previously unseen levels of tension and debate over the terms of political participation and representation; that is, over the boundaries of the political field itself. In thus calling special attention to the political ferment of the era, this book suggests the Brazilian case as a fruitful point of reference for not only reconsidering the histories of democracy and citizenship in Latin America, but for also returning to the interrelated, and not just sequential, histories of slavery and liberalism in the nineteenth-century Atlantic world. This work has been awarded the Bolton-Johnson and Warren Dean prizes from the Conference on Latin American History, and was chosen as co-winner of the Roberto Reis Best Book Award for books published in Brazilian studies in 2016 and 2017. Slave Emancipation followed an edited volume Castilho co-organized with Maria Helena Machado of the University of São Paulo, Tornando-se Livre (EDUSP, 2015) and two-prize winning articles published in 2010 and 2013, respectively.


His current book is about the circulation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in Latin America. Drawing on insights from cultural, political, and literary history, The Latin American Repertoires of Uncle Tom’s Cabin: Slavery, Blackness, and Democracy in the Public Sphere grapples with how the Uncle Tom phenomenon, in its book, serial, and theatrical forms, bore upon political and literary reckonings with slavery and blackness in the mid-nineteenth-century. Fundamentally, this study casts a fresh eye on the problem of the public sphere by considering it as imbricated in the material and discursive realities of Atlantic slavery. The research is largely based on printed sources—newspapers, pamphlets, theater handbills, and translated novels and scripts—and it pertains to places where the story had a discernible register: Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City, Lima, and Buenos Aires. Castilho’s first publications on the project are forthcoming in 2019 in peer-reviewed journals. One article delves into an 1855 serialized adaptation in Rio de Janeiro and its relationship to contemporaneous discussions of slavery, and the other focuses on dramatic manifestations of Uncle Tom on the Mexico City stage in the late 1850s—placing these performances in dialogue with similar performances in Spain. The latter piece forms part of a special issue that Castilho is co-organizing with Marcela Echeverri of Yale University on “los ecos atlánticos de las aboliciones hispanoamericanas.” It will appear in Historia Mexicana, published out of El Colegio de México.


A third book project is also underway, focused on the black press in imperial Brazil. As a point of departure for Reimagining the Black Press in Imperial Brazil, Castilho asks: why did a nation with as large and thriving free population of color, and with an equally vibrant and free press, produce so relatively few self-designated “black newspapers” during the nineteenth century? How do we even conceptualize such category in a country where, regardless of the type of paper, people of color were integral to the world of print as editors, typographers, and sellers, and where newspapers of all kinds also employed enslaved people? Envisioned as part intellectual history of the idea of the “black press” and part social history of the press more generally, this book systematically analyzes important dailies and shorter-run newspapers edited by afrodescendants to better understand the contingencies that shaped black political formations. This study brings an important Brazilian perspective to comparative discussions about the black press, and to research on Atlantic intellectual trends. Castilho’s first publication on this project is about a black abolitionist newspaper’s engagement, and ultimate reappraisal of, the “gallery of illustrious men” genre, which was rooted in French letters, but became a means of contesting slavery and anti-black exclusions in 1870s northeastern Brazil.

Selected Publications


  • Slave Emancipation and Transformations in Brazilian Political Citizenship (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016).
  • The Latin American Repertoires of Uncle Tom’s Cabin: Slavery, Blackness, and Democracy in the Public Sphere (in-progress)
  • Reimagining the Black Press in Nineteenth-Century Brazil (in-progress)

Edited Volumes:

Journal Articles:

  • Celso Thomas Castilho, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the Press, and Slavery in Brazilian Public Life: Rio de Janeiro, ca. 1855,” (article under consideration with The Americas)
  • Celso Thomas Castilho, “Recrear La cabaña de Tom en la Ciudad de México y América Latina. Intercambio anti-esclavista e intelectual en el mundo Atlántico del siglo XIX,” Historia Mexicana, (forthcoming, 2019).
  • 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.

Book Chapters:

  • Celso Thomas Castilho, “Abolition and its Aftermath in Brazil,” in Cambridge World History of Slavery: Vol 4. 1804 to the Present Day, eds. Seymour Drescher, David Eltis, Stanley Engerman, and David Richardson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 486-509.
  • Celso Thomas Castilho, “Propõe-se a Qualquer Consignação, Menos de Escravos”: o problema da emancipação no Recife, ca. 1870,” in Tornando-se Livre, 277-92.

Awards & Fellowships

  • 2018 Conference on Latin American History: Bolton Johnson and Warren Dean prizes
  • 2016-17 SEC Faculty Travel Program. Lectured at the University of Alabama.
  • 2014 winner of the Kimberly S. Hanger Article Prize, awarded annually by the Latin American and Caribbean Section of the Southern Historical Association, for the article, “Performing Abolitionism, Enacting Citizenship: The Social Construction of Political Rights in 1880s Recife, Brazil.”
  • 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)
  • Social Movements in Latin America, 1780s-1910s (undergraduate)
  • Methods and Practice of History (undergraduate)
  • Race and Nation in Latin America (undergraduate and graduate)
  • Research Seminar in Latin American History (graduate)
  • Performance and Citizenship in the Americas (graduate)
  • Histories and Historiographies of Modern Latin America (graduate)

Celso Thomas Castilho was born in São Paulo, Brazil, and raised in Los Angeles, California. He earned a BA in history at UC Berkeley, an MA in Latin American Studies at UCLA, and returned to Berkeley to complete a doctorate in history.