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«Social cleavages in the last Portuguese colonial empire Maria Eugénia Mata1 Abstract Social cohesion in the Portuguese colonial empire is approached ...»

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Of course miscegenation beyond marriage also may be a focus of segregation and a threat of violence. Legal miscegenation through legal heterogamy, however, represents the public acceptance of differences and the assumption of a personal private relationship with someone who is different. Moreover, as marriage is a juridical relationship that is established within the legal framing system for society, it also bases its economic structure on property rights, in order to legitimize filial descent and inheritance, and it is useless to stress that the role of property rights in society is decisive.32 It is worth saying that surely homogamy included not only racial prejudice but also educational homogeneity. Available studies show that educational homogamy across cohorts is considerable, both in absolute terms and also when controlling for the general increase in educational levels in recent periods. Usually racial prejudice exists to the extent that it is coterminous with educational homogamy.33 In adopting this perspective, it becomes clear that intermarriage can also be assumed to be an indicator of social, educational and cultural openness and integration.34 Data According to data on interracial marriages collected from the Portuguese Statistical Yearbooks on the Portuguese Colonial Empire for the 1940s and 1950s, marriages occurred mainly between people belonging to the same group. In fact, the yearbooks present a map breaking down 13 marriages according to the “somatic group” of husband and wife in the married couples in each territory (with the exception of Macau) for every year from 1944 to 1960. The vast majority of marriages occurred with connubial partners that were both “white”, “mixed”, “negro” “Indian”, “Yellow” and “Timorese”. Mixed marriages also occurred, although in smaller numbers. It is possible to represent this information using a matrix A 6x 6 where lines and columns include “White”, “Mixed”, “Negro”, “Indian”, “Yellow”, and “Timorese”.

Elements aii represent in the matrix homogamic marriages of couples (as husband and wife belong to the same somatic group). All other elements of the matrix, the aij with i ≠ j represent mixed marriages, describing different husband/wife combinations, according to their position in the matrix.

Not only is the whole sample significant, but also the number of marriages that were included in the data represented in each element aij. The yearbook explains that data were collected from information provided by local administrations in the municipalities of the colonial territories.

The analysis will be performed for each of the territories and not for the whole colonial empire. According to Harris& Ono, 2005, it is incorrect to perform any marriage analysis that disregards the regional aspects, because the market for marriage is local. Opportunities to meet a potential spouse are based on personal networks.35 The test for marriages in the USA for the year 2000 proves the accuracy of this hypothesis. For Portuguese colonial territories this is a decisive aspect, for several reasons. Not only were transports and traveling more infrequent and inefficient, but also geographical discontinuity and cultural diversity requires separate analyses, of course.

It is very relevant to say that from 1960 on, ethnic information on marriages disappeared from the national Statistical Yearbooks. Marriages were presented without any break down by “somatic groups”, and no more reference is made to this characterization. From then on, statistical data reports on the number of marriages and divorces as a whole, in each of the territories. This fact means that the motivation to choose ethnicity as a main factor to describe marriages statistically was considered to be politically incorrect. The label “somatic groups” evoked identity.

The expression of somatic cleavages could evoke a perceived threat of conflict in the historical context of the surge of colonial movements that led to the colonial wars.

The samples include hundreds of marriages in each year in the small territories and even thousands of marriages in each large territory.36 It is impossible to distinguish whether any of them refer to second marriages. This means we have information on couples in existing marriages, but 14 not on previous relationships. The inconvenience, however, may be very small, as divorce was quite rare at that time. A large database of a vast number of observations in each year in each territory from the scores of marriages registered supports the exercise, depicted in annual matrixes for each of the territories. How to manage the data in order to obtain conclusions on social fractionalization of Portuguese colonial society and test the government philosophy on sociability within the Portuguese empire?

Testing the hypothesis of independence between marriage decisions and race.

On observing annual matrixes, it is easy to guess that most marriages in Cape Verde were couples of a mixed husband and a mixed wife, as mixed people were dominant in this territory;

most marriages in Guinea, São Tomé and Príncipe, Angola and Mozambique were couples of a negro husband and a negro wife, as negro people were dominant there; most marriages in India, (Macau and Timor) were of couples in which both husband and wife were Indian (Yellow or Timorese), as these were the dominant “somatic groups” in each of these cases. Did the observed number of interracial marriages parallel the proportion of “somatic groups” in each territory?





To study intermarriage patterns it is necessary to provide a method for controlling for population size of each group. This means that the depicted racial mating must be adjusted for the racial composition in the different colonial territories. For this purpose contingency tables E were calculated.

n k ∑ a ij. ∑ a ji j =1 i =1 eij = n n ∑∑1 a iia jj i =1 j = Estimations provide what should be the number of marriages of each kind of husband/wife combination, supposing that the probability of marrying with someone from any “somatic group” was equal. The hypothesis corresponds to no social prejudice (the government’s rhetorical philosophy).

The comparison with data through the calculation of the bias defined as

–  –  –

15 provides the χ 2 test to the hypothesis of independence between race and (the observed) decisions on marriage.

The bias proves that race and decisions on marriage were not independent variables with probabilities ≥ 0.99 for the confidence margin, for all the Portuguese colonial territories. One important analytical aspect deserves to be mentioned. As some “somatic groups” were very small in some territories -particularly the whites - there is a bias in the statistical conclusions on exaggerating the estimated probabilities. Be that as it may, one may take for certain the nonindependence between race and decisions on marriage in the Portuguese colonies.

The startling finding emerges that not only were the proclaimed political aims of race equality wrong (or at least, not practiced), but also that the data show high preferences for homogamous marriages in all of the colonies, as well as ranking preferences for races.

It is also interesting to note that data in matrixes A show that men are much more willing to marry someone from a different “somatic group” than are women. In fact, as columns represent men and lines represent women, we can see that values are much more spread along columns than along lines. This fact is already noticed in Boxer 1961 for the Brazilian colonization: “The French circumnavigator, Le Gentil de La Barbinais, who stayed for some months at Bahia in 1718-19, was scandalized by the local citizen’s preference for a colored woman even if a white woman was available”.37 This means that heterogamous decisions belonged much more to men than to women in a world where “European men were the most direct agents of empire”.38 Building an indicator for social cohesion A different aim may be to get a glimpse of social cohesion, measured through blending of races by marriage as a social institution, by considering the weight of mixed marriages in Portuguese colonial societies.

According to the described data, a homogamous indicator may, thus, be calculated as a proxy for social cohesion. Consider the squared matrix A, above, describing the observed marriages among ethnic groups in a territory in a given year. As the diagonal of the matrix, made up of the elements aii, contains the number of marriages intra-ethnic groups and the other elements of the matrix describe the marriages inter-ethnic groups, the index I defined as

–  –  –

which measures the proportion of mixed marriages in society, also varying from 0 to 1 (zero for no cohesion resulting from the absence of marriages inter-ethnic groups, 1 for the maximum cohesion resulting from the absence of marriages intra-ethnic groups).

Indicators of social cohesion ( 1− I ) were estimated for all of the years for each colonial territory.

An overall indicator for the whole period for each territory was calculated in Table 3 from the average of the estimated indicators for each territory.

–  –  –

The value of this indicator for social cohesion deserves a comment. It is based on legal marriage, the top expression of personal openness to other people. Legal marriage is a formal union. It requires sanctioning by the state and usually all family and friends expect that it will involve someone who is thought to be socially equal or even superior. So, it is only fair to say that many other informal marital relationships also occurred. All kinds of interracial relationships contribute to reducing social distances. Legal marriage is, however, the upper expression of accepting different people, neglecting social barriers and promoting imitation. In fact, the more interracial marriages occur, the higher is the encouragement to other people to consider romantic love across racial lines. In conclusion, the indicator downgrades the estimated social cohesion. It is 17 biased by neglecting informal unions, concubines or other marital couples. This fact leads to the belief that the following analysis on social permeability is very safe.

Table 3 shows that there was a large wedge between official ideology provided in political speeches and reality provided through statistical evidence. Ethnic cleavages, particularly black/white fractionalization, were very prominent in the African continent. Although no Portuguese colony may be pointed to as a case similar to Zimbabwe or South Africa, ethnic stigmatization still characterized Portuguese colonial societies.

From all Portuguese colonial territories, Cape Verde and Angola were the societies most open to mixed marriages. They represented, on average, 15% of the total during the two decades studied. São Tomé and Príncipe and Mozambique followed, having about 10%. Among the African colonies, Guinea was the territory most averse to mixed marriages, and deserves to be seen as a third case level. In fact, the social cohesion measured by the weight of mixed marriages only reached 5%.

In all of the Portuguese colonies the dominant story for single white men who arrived from the mother country was marriage with white girls from domiciled white families or white girls from the mainland, who joined them after a legal marriage by procurator (casamento por procuração), according to the prevailing sexual moral rules of the time. The brides might be their girl friends at the time of their departure, or might be chosen by parents and family remaining in the mother country, or even found through announcements in newspapers.39 Personal difficult financial situations, dreams of a transatlantic marriage, or the intent of women to find a good husband among wealthy colonial employees gave success to this social mechanism for searching out a marriage with a white woman. Dreams of this kind always affected female mentalities of the time towards imitation.40 The character of the Portuguese African colonies also evoked the role of the “frontier” that involved this kind of wedding in “multi-layered imaginaries” just as has been stressed for Australia and other regions.41 The Portuguese Asian colonies show a very different structure for marriages from the interracial point of view. These were much more closed colonial societies, although they demonstrate some openness to geographical mobility into African colonial territories. Data on the distribution of the population, according to the so-called “somatic groups,” can show their presence in Mozambique Angola, and even Guinea. In the Asian colonies, colonizers were even scarcer than they were in the African colonies, as they represented much less than 1% of the 18 resident population (table 2-C). The annual observation of thousands of marriages in the database for Portuguese India and Timor shows that almost all of them occurred among Indian couples or Timorese couples, respectively. For Indian territories it is absolutely necessary to evoke the prominent role of religious cleavages, including Hindus (61%), Catholics (37%), and a minority made up of Orthodox Christians and Muslims.42 Both Hindus and Muslims respected the social organization through the division into “castes”. Note that for the African colonies the so-called “somatic groups” may be seen much more as social “orders”(ordens), and never as castes.



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