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Review - Captives and Cousins: Slavery, Kinship and Community in the Southwest Borderlands

Brooks cites the existence of a “fluid border” between the Ute Indian tribe and New Mexicans who, through the practice of slavery, were able to co-exist due in large part to the cultural commonality that slavery provided (Brooks 253).
Brooks’ work is a regional history focusing on three dominant border areas: “the buffalo plains, the canyons and mesas west of the Rio Grande and the mountain ranges that linked them” (Brooks 164). This geographic distinction gives the book a readily distinguishable organization, which is fortunate given that its subject matter ranges over such a wide swath of otherwise undistinguished territory. Having thus organized his study, Brooks refers repeatedly to his aim in shedding light on a relatively obscure, though interesting, facet of American history. “This book addresses several areas of contemporary debate in native American, Spanish Borderland,
and North American history” (Ibid 566). Brooks goes on to explain that the book’s treatment of the accumulation of human chattel and wealth among the region’s patriarchal societies is, ultimately, intended to be a factual, un-romanticized history of the relations between native and non-native Americans. Brooks succeeds in this endeavor.
He is also successful in having produced a readable, relatable history. The book deals with a complex web of social and cultural relations among different ethnicities (and different Indian tribes), but still manages to engage the reader on a “story” level. Brooks utilizes but does not overwhelm the reader with statistics. Nevertheless, the story he tells is ambitious enough to appear bewildering at first. And it is at first difficult for a reader indoctrinated in the institution of ante-Bellum Southern slavery to easily grasp the fact that slavery in the Southwest border country was not as clearly distinguishable as that of the plantation South. Perhaps the book’s greatest ...Show more

Summary

Brooks has offered a detailed, socio-cultural account of the saga of multi-ethnic slavery and patriarchy in the border Southwest. Captives and Cousins: Slavery, Kinship and Community in the Southwest Borderlands is at once an account of the creation of a uniquely…
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