Over the last 3 decades, slavery and its social and cultural legacies has been an important subject of commemoration, scholarship and artistic exploration as well as a site of public debate. In this workshop, we engage this question from the vantage point of literature, understood in the broadest sense as textual, visual or cinematic depictions of slavery across genres ranging from memoirs, diaries and travel literature to novels, documentaries and feature films. We ask how, at different moments, ‘literature’ has contributed to the transmission (or the repression) of the memory of slavery.
The engagements of literature with slavery take many forms. Literary texts have borne witness to the realities and practices of slavery both from afar and in the most intimate ways. Literature has helped to shape the cultural memory of colonial slavery both by contributing to the repression of atrocities in the formation of national imaginaries and through the preservation and actualization of the memory of slavery in for example emergent Caribbean (Vivian Nun Halloran 2009, Catherine A. Reinhardt 2008) or African (Laura T. Murphy 2012) literatures. And literature has served and continues to serve to explore, reinterpret and perhaps counter the colonial archives that were so closely intertwined with the practices of slavery.
In this workshop, we invite researchers to engage in discussion of literature and slavery in relation to central questions of memory, testimony and the formation of archives. We raise questions such as: what is the relation between history and memory in literary representations of slavery;who narrates on behalf of whom and to what ends; what are the central metaphors, storylines and topoi of literary representations of slavery? What kind of identities and political realities are created or enabled by texts, what are the performative effects of literary language , and how do we understand different textual and oral representations of slavery within literary, cultural and political histories? We strive for a cross-disciplinary discussion of the ways in which textual (and other) representations shape and counter the formation of cultural memory of colonial slavery, encouraging contributions relating to recent discussions in different fields on the importance of representations for the formation of a cultural memory of slavery (Myriam Cottias 2007, Françoise Vergès 2006, Ana Lucia Araujo 2012) and of the related processes of forgetting and silencing (Gert Oostindie 2011, Michel-Rolph Trouillot 1995, Madeleine Dobie 2010).
Of special interest is the ways in which the politics of remembrance and forgetting reinforce and challenge global relationships shaped by colonialism. This entails looking at the role of cultural memory in the formation of diasporic identities (Paul Lovejoy et al. 2008, Paul Gilroy 1993, Alan Rice 2010), the way in which different histories and practices of memory and memory politics around the Atlantic interact and clash (Araujo 2015, Elisa Bordin and Anna Scacchi 2015) and of the role of memorialization in contemporary Africa (Bayo Holsey 2008, Mitch Kachun 2006, Rosalind Shaw 2002).
In recent years, greater accessibility of the colonial archives, especially through digitization, has also highlighted both the importance and the limits of these archives as the basis for memory practices, spurring a new wave of artistic interpretation of and interaction with the archives (Simone Osthoff 2009) and scholarly reflection of the relationship between different forms of representation and the archive (Ann Laura Stoler 2010).
A central problematic is the very possibility of capturing and transmitting events through witnessing and testimonies. This relates to the few but important historical testimonies from slaves (Nicole N Aljoe 2011, Sandra E. Greene 2012, Deborah Jenson 2011) – of interest here both for the narratological and historical specificities of these texts and the for later importance of these texts for the remembrance of slavery – and to contemporary testimonies from victims of slavery (Ana Maria Lugão Rios & Hebe Mattos 2005) and fictional reconstructions of the experience of slavery.
In order to encompass a variety of representations, we invite papers on both canonical, well known forms of literature like the novel, the theatre and poetry and non-canonical and alternative forms of literature, including autobiographies, diaries, essays, travel writing, account books, ethnographic depictions etc. And the relationship between textual and other forms of representation, e.g. visual (Marcus Wood 2000, 2010, Nicholas Mirzoeff 2010) bodily, and performative forms of memory practice. We welcome papers that thematize the transatlantic, Mediterranean, African and Indian slavery in the period from 1400 until today. Topics of interest therefore include (but are certainly not limited to):
The importance of literature for the cultural memory of slavery.
The history of slave narratives and their importance for the memory of slavery
Later literary imaginings of slavery in contemporary literature
Resistance to the dominance of the written document in literature; performance and visual culture
The importance of the memory of colonial slavery to resistance and awareness of contemporary form of slavery
The relation between an historical approach and an approach based in memory studies
Comparison between different forms of representation of slavery
Uses of the past in later and/or contemporary periods
The incorporation of non-canonical forms of literature on slavery in literary history
The seminar is the second in a series preparing the book Comparative Literary Histories of Slavery, eds. Mads Anders Baggesgaard, Madeleine Dobie and Karen-Margrethe Simonsen in the series of literary histories made by CHLEL under the ICLA, Publishing House: John Benjamins Publishing. Two other volumes engage with the topics of Slavery, Literature and Emotion and Authorship, Literary Culture and Slavery.
Please send 100-200 word abstracts for 20 min. papers to email@example.com no later than August 1, 2017 along with a short biographical note.
Participation is free, but participants will have to cover their own costs for travel and lodging. Lunches will be provided. For information on recommended accommodation and other practical matters please do not hesitate to write firstname.lastname@example.org The seminar is hosted by the research project Reading Slavery at Aarhus University, Denmark, see readingslavery.au.dk.
Mads Anders Baggesgaard, Madeleine Dobie and Karen-Margrethe Simonsen