Africana Studies Researcher’s Book Continues to Sweep Awards

UNC Charlotte Africana Studies associate professor Oscar de la Torre’s first book continues to sweep book prize awards, now recognized with two best book prizes and one honorable mention award.

The People of the River: Identity and Environment in Black Amazonia, 1835-1945, published in 2018 by UNC Press, has received these prizes:

  • Outstanding First Book Award, Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora.
  • Best Book in Amazonian Studies, Amazonia Section of the Latin American Studies Association.
  • Honorable Mention, Roberto Reis Book Prize, Brazilian Studies Association.

In this history of the black peasants of Amazonia, de la Torre charts the understudied lives and livelihoods of Afro-descendant peasants in the Brazilian Amazon from the mid-nineteenth century through the Second World War.

Relying on their world as a repository for traditions, discourses, and strategies, Afro-Brazilians fought for autonomous communities and developed a vibrant ethnic identity that supported their struggles over labor, land, and citizenship. In commonly referring to themselves by such names as “sons of the river,” Black Amazonians melded their agro-ecological traditions with their emergent identity as political stakeholders.

“De la Torre’s reliance on field research, archival materials, personal interviews, as well as a wide range of published primary and secondary sources in order to recount these fascinating and well-crafted stories is a remarkable achievement.”

— Brazilian Studies Association

The Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora describes the book as an ambitious and important work of history that also incorporates theoretical insights and methods from the discipline of anthropology.

The book will be the subject of a Personally Speaking community conversation in March 2021. The series, presented by the College in partnership with J. Murrey Atkins Library and The Dubois Center at UNC Charlotte Center City, is a signature speakers series showcasing College authors and their research.

Prior to joining the faculty in the Department of Africana Studies in 2012, de la Torre was an assistant professor of history at the University of Central Oklahoma. He earned his doctoral and master’s degrees at the University of Pittsburgh.

He also received a post-doctoral fellowship with Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition. He was guest editor with Akin Ogundiran of Ofo: Journal of Transatlantic Studies’ special issue on “Community Engagement and Citizen Empowerment in Africa and the African Diaspora.”

Words and Image: Lynn Roberson, CLAS Communications Director