On Currents and Comparisons: Gender and the Atlantic ‘Turn’ in Spanish America
This article is part of a History Compass cluster on ‘Rethinking Gender, Family and Sexuality in the Early Modern Atlantic World’. The cluster is made up of the following articles: ‘On Currents and Comparisons: Gender and the Atlantic ‘Turn’ in Spanish America’, Bianca Premo, History Compass 8.3 (2010): 223–237, doi: 10.1111/j.1478-0542.2009.00658.x ‘Women and Families in Early (North) America and the Wider (Atlantic) World’, Karin Wulf, History Compass 8.3 (2010): 238–247, doi: 10.1111/j.1478-0542.2009.00659.x ‘Family Matters: The Early Modern Atlantic from the European Side’, Julie Hardwick, History Compass 8.3 (2010): 248–257, doi: 10.1111/j.1478-0542.2009.00660.x The following essay originated as one of these three contributions to a roundtable discussion held at the 14th Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, June 2008. The roundtable, ‘Rethinking Gender, Family, and Sexuality in the Early Modern Atlantic World’, was meant to be as much invitation as inventory and was astonishingly well attended at 08:00 in the morning, with standing room only for a thoughtful, lively audience whose comments, questions, and suggestions are reflected here (although in no way fully represented). As historians of gender and family in the North Atlantic, European, and Iberian worlds, we had hoped to encourage more central and systematic attention to gender within the Atlantic World paradigm by cataloging some recent works in their fields and pointing the way for future studies. Yet, a funny thing happened on the way to the conference. Independently, each of us began to engage with the challenges of simply inserting family and gender into ‘the Atlantic’ as both as conceptual place and a historical practice. The essays that emerged, therefore, departed from conventional historiographies that survey the state of the field. Rather, these are theoretical and methodological reflections on the implications of de-centering national and colonial narratives about the history of gender. At a time when transnational historical scholarship on early modern women promises to explode, these essays aim to inspire debate about the conceptual utility of the Atlantic as a paradigm for understanding issues of gender, family, and sexuality, as well as its ramifications for feminist scholarship everywhere.