Professor Gharala is working on a book manuscript that follows the life of an enslaved man of East African origin who was trafficked through the Philippines to what is now Mexico. Calling himself “a Black man from India,” he claimed that he had gained his freedom in exchange for his bravery and years of service to a merchant.

Set in the mid-seventeenth century, this biographical study traces forced movements of people between Mozambique and Mexico by way of South and Southeast Asia. From the central story, and supporting archival materials, emerge the dynamics of merchant households in baroque Mexico City. Spanish men enforced hierarchies within their homes, but the terms of slavery and servitude shifted and evolved over the course of enslaved people’s lives.

This project asks how people of East African origin experienced slavery and formulated ideas about freedom as they moved among the port cities of the early modern Iberian empires.

Professor Gharala is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the University of Houston in Texas, USA, and holds a PhD from The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, USA. Dr Gharala has published peer-reviewed articles and a monograph, Taxing Blackness: Free Afromexican Tribute in Bourbon New Spain (University of Alabama Press, 2019). Building on these research interests in social and fiscal categories, Dr Gharala’s current work explores social difference and legal status using biographical methods and New Spain’s global connections.