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Slavery, Memory and Literature

Workshop, Paris, October 18-19 2017, Columbia Global Center and EHESS

Info about event


Wednesday 18 October 2017, at 09:00 - Thursday 19 October 2017, at 21:50


Paris, France


Reading Slavery and ICLA


Mads-Anders Baggesgaard, Aarhus University

Myriam Cottias, CNRS, CIRESC & LC2S

Madeleine Dobie, Columbia University

Karen-Margrethe Simonsen, Aarhus University


October 18

Columbia University Global Center, 4 rue de Chevreuse.


9.30-10.00: Registration and Coffee


10.00-10.15: Opening Remarks

Mads-Anders Baggesgaard & Karen-Margrethe Simonsen



Session 1: Public and Private Memories, chair Mads Anders Baggesgaard

Lesley Barker: Historic House Museums in St. Louis, Missouri

Jean Hébrard: Appropriation and Reformulation of the Origin Story: the Production and Uses of Family Memories of Atlantic slavery

Jane-Marie Collins: Too Close for Comfort: Cultures of Cruelty in Debret, Machado and Firmina dos Reis


12.00-13.00: Box lunch



Session 2: Transatlantic Relations and Translations, chair Elvan Zabunyan

Anne C. Bailey: Slavery, Memory and Transatlantic Voices

Marie-Jeanne Rossignol: Translating North American Slave Narratives into French and for a French Public: Questions on the Récits d’esclaves Series and a Trans-National Memory of Slavery

Tatiana Petrovich Njegosh: Aferim! (2015) and the Silenced Memory of Roma Slavery in Europe


14.45-15.00: Coffee



Session 3: Poetic and Visual Memories of the Middle Passage, chair Jean Hébrard

Ellen Howley: The Voices of the Zong Massacre: Postcolonial Approaches to Memory

Noni Carter: Fabricated in the Belly of the Ship: Representing the Enslaved in Enlightenment-era and Contemporary Literature

Elvan Zabunyan: On Ellen Gallagher’s Imaginary, an Afrofuturist Reading of the History of Slavery



Public event:

Race, Gender and Cinema: a conversation between film maker Euzhan Palcy and historian Myriam Cottias.


20:30 Reception




October 19

EHESS, 105 Boulevard Raspail



Session 5:  Remembering Resistances, chair Karen-Margrethe Simonsen

Domna C. Stanton: Contradicting Re-Collections: The Enslaved in the 17th Century French Atlantic Triangle

Stella Vincenot: Conflicting Traces. Travel Narratives and the Memory of Slavery Resistance

Isabel Kalous: The (Un)Known World: Renditions of the Past and Representations of Slavery in 21st-Century Novels


11.00-11.30: Coffee Break



Session 6: Embodiment and Performance, chair Laura Murphy

Anna Scacchi: The Black Body in Pain

Fabienne Kanor: Flesh of History

Jerry W. Carlson: Exorcising Slavery: Celebration and Kinesis in Music Video from Cuba, Colombia and The Dominican Republic


13.15-14.15: Box lunch



Session 7: Reimagining the Past: Alternative Temporalities and Counter-Narratives, chair Myriam Cottias

Marco Doudin: Creating History Through Fiction: Derek Walcott and Edouard Glissant’s Memory of Slavery

Patrícia Lourenço: Fiction of Memory. On Lucas Coelho’s Deus-Dará and the Time-Being of “Lusophone” Postcoloniality

Laura Murphy: The New Slave Narrative and The Invention of "Survivors" of Modern Slavery


16.00-16.15 Coffee Break



Session 8: Caribbean Perspectives, chair Madeleine Dobie

Lovia Mondésir: The Nameless woman and the Trauma of the Abolition Act of Slavery According to Edouard Glissant

Heather Cateau: Plantation Papers: The Eighteenth-Century Selfie – Snapshots for Re-Envisioning Enslavement in the Caribbean

Mads Anders Baggesgaard: “Each blood bought, hard earned, honored place”: Depictions of slavery in a time of transfer, St. Thomas 1901-1960.


18.00-18.30 Information on upcoming volume and closing remarks

Madeleine Dobie



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. 

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