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Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
August 2023
Print publication year:
Online ISBN:
Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, Area Studies, Latin American Studies, History, Latin American History

Book description

Policing Freedom uses the case study of Brazil's first penitentiary, the Casa de Correção, to explore how the Brazilian government used incarceration and enforced labor to control the prison population during the foundational period of Brazilian state formation and postcolonial nation building. Placing this penitentiary within the global debates about the disciplinary benefits of confinement and the evolution of free labor ideology, Martine Jean illustrates how Brazil's political elites envisioned the penitentiary as a way to discipline the free working class. While participating in the debates about the inhumanity of the slave trade, philanthropists and lawmakers, both conservative and liberal, articulated a nation-building discourse that focused on reforming Brazil's vagrants into workers in anticipation of slavery's eventual demise, laying the racialized foundations for policing and incarceration in the post-emancipation period.


‘Brazil has one of the highest prison populations in the world -it comes third, after the US and China. Adopting a micro-global approach, Policing Freedom masterfully connects the history of prisons with the crisis of slavery and the transformations in labor regimes in the Atlantic world during the nineteenth century.’

Sidney Chalhoub - Harvard University

‘In this tenaciously researched and haunting study of ‘slavery’s afterlives in punishment,’ Martine Jean tells the stories of those confined in Rio de Janeiro’s first modern-style penitentiary. Rio’s Casa de Correção was an urban construction site, a social experiment, a warehouse of people, and ultimately, Jean shows, a crucible for post-abolition society.’

Amy Chazkel - Columbia University

‘This book is an invaluable contribution to the study of police and political control of the popular classes, mainly but not only Africans and Afrodescendants, in the largest slaving city of the Atlantic basin, Rio de Janeiro. It combines with originality a discussion of the end of the transatlantic slave trade, the decline of slavery, and the formation of an immense, modern prison complex aimed at maintaining seignorial dominion.’

João José Reis - Universidade Federal da Bahia

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