Intersectional interactions: Women as brokers and go-betweens in the Portuguese State of India

Amélia Polónia
University of Porto

This contribution starts from the assumption that cooperation between the Europeans and the societies and cultures of contact during the Early Modern process of overseas empire-building depended on the agency of women as brokers and go-betweens in all territories where Europeans settled. This seems particularly apparent in the Portuguese case. Even if a great majority of those interactions were imposed, women were crucial actors in the dynamics and the outcomes of European colonization. This affected Portuguese and autochthone women alike, even if on different scales and levels. Between resistance, conflict, cheating, defection, intermingling and assimilation, those women performed as intermediaries between worlds. Their presence and agency were vital to economic flows between worlds, as they were essential in negotiations processes. They were influential in social organization dynamics through their roles in the family and in the reconfiguration of colonial environments.