Greg Childs at AAIHS writes:
Special Issue of Social Text (33:4, 2015) on “The Question of Recovery: Slavery, Freedom, and the Archive,” including a roundtable on slavery, mapping, and the digital humanities. Guest edited by Laura Helton, Justin Leroy, Max A. Mishler, Samantha Seeley, and Shauna Sweeney
Greg Childs writes:
“In all fairness to historians who have taken this position in their either implicit or explicit discussions of black geographies, the insistence on seeing un-enslaved fugitives in the confusing and contradictory space of the “bush” stems from a similar insistence that spills out from the documentation of runaway communities. In the context of the Portuguese empire, for example, by the 1650s those who were employed as slave catchers were known as “capitães do mato” a term that is often literally rendered in English as “bush captain”. 5 The name itself was not employed consistently across the Portuguese empire and thus other names for the slave catchers emerged as well by the 1680s. Yet, these names also locked runaway communities into a geographical wilderness. Thus the “capitães das entradas dos matos” were “captains of the entryway into the bush,” a phrase that seemed to consider the “entryway into the bush” to be the very the boundary between rational civilization and uncharted wilderness. Thus by locating black subjects in undeveloped, unmapped areas, black subjects are themselves naturalized as irrational and underdeveloped by archival sources.”
Read the entire post: Visible Fugitives | African American Intellectual History Blog
In “Between Latin America and the African Diaspora?” Greg Childs discusses researching Latin America’s black history and the conflicts that can arise:
Perhaps because I was indeed sitting right beside him the man did not see me. Or maybe he saw me but genuinely had no clue what kind of work I did or what to make of it or how to understand the way he had heard my work described. After all, I had in fact been introduced to the committee at the previous meeting as the new guy and as a specialist in African Diaspora and Brazilian history. Whatever the reason was that he did not see me, so to speak, it was merely a re-incarnation of a scene that had become quite familiar, that had happened many times before in prior years and that was essentially informed by a singular confusion: was I a scholar of black studies or a scholar of Latin America? Or perhaps even more generally, was I a historian of a subset of people who could be located anywhere or a historian of a “legitimate” region (and indeed a few days later the same individual approached me and apologized by saying “I’m sorry. I just thought you studied black people out there, you know, in lots of places”)?
For all the academic and mainstream recognition of black folk in Latin America over the past few years, such encounters are disheartening reminders that inclusion does not signal transformation. But lamenting how blackness is included but not viewed as central or characteristic of Latin American history is less interesting than asking why this continues to occur, and for me the answer seems to cohere around two issues: the power that “institutional history” has had in shaping questions about subjugated peoples in Latin America, and relatedly the enduring influence that theories concerned with structures and institutions of history have had in Latin American scholarship….
Read the rest Between Latin America and the African Diaspora? at AAIHS