“What do historians of the earlier period do when dealing with black diasporic subjects laboring and living in a world of ideas, philosophies, and cosmologies but largely without alphanumeric texts? Does this black intellectual production only start becoming intellectual history when texts written by people of African descent begin to appear? What new possibilities for intellectual work open when the enslaved and the period of slavery become central?
Instead of approaches, below are five written texts I often return to when thinking with (not necessarily through) and engaging the intellectual production of people of African descent circling the Atlantic before emancipation….”
Read the entire post: Thinking with Black Diasporic Intellectual Production | African American Intellectual History Society
Penda M’Bow, ed. Hommes et femmes entre sphères publique et privée. Dakar: Codesria, 2005.
The result of a 1998 conference on gender equality in Africa, Hommes et femmes explores the position of men and women in the public and private spheres across the continent, with a special focus on the role gender inequity and sexism played in democratization and globalization.
“La définition même des pouvoirs féminins dans un contexte de sujétion et d’infériorité constituait l’enjeu central du thème. Fallait-il comprendre ces pouvoirs comme une autorité pleine et entière détenue par les femmes dans une sphère spécifique, une autorité d’ailleurs souvent exercée aux dépens d’autres femmes comme une participation limitée et minoritaire aux pouvoirs des hommes? comme des contre-pouvoirs ou alors séducteurs, secrets et illicites? ou encore comme une ré-appropriation et un détournement (qui est retournement contre le domi- nateur) des instruments symboliques qui instituent la domination masculine? La construction d’une périodisation propre de l’évolution du statut des femmes devait être envisagée pour mieux étudier les différentes modalités du pouvoir des femmes. C’est en démêlant les relations qu’elles entretiennent aussi bien avec les hommes que les unes avec les autres que l’on pouvait comprendre comment un pouvoir féminin [se construit à l’intérieur d’un système de rapports inégalitaires.”
African Diaspora, Ph.D. is revisiting scholarship that has shaped the study of people of African descent across time and place.
Claire C. Robertson and Martin A. Klein, eds. Women and Slavery in Africa. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985.
In a 1985 review of the volume, Patrick Manning wrote:
Summer of 2013, in the wake of three kidnappings, each involving young women of color, Brenda Stevenson offered these comments on ways histories of Atlantic slavery continue to reverberate in violence against women today:
The brutal physical, psychological and sexual abuse that Ariel Castro inflicted on Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Georgina DeJesus was typical of what black enslaved women endured over the generations. Michelle Knight’s description of her life of horrors and how she was able to survive it — through bonding with another slave woman — suggests the strength and importance of communal bonds as survival and resistance strategies of slaves in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Likewise, these women’s belief that they would not remain in slavery, as well as the Kenyan maid’s mad dash for freedom on an Orange County bus, suitcase in tow, underscore the resilience and resistance of past bondsmen and women. They are our contemporary Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs and Lavinia Bell. Amanda Berry’s determination to shield her daughter from the violence and shame of her conception, and the brutal deaths of her siblings and stepsiblings at the hands of her “father/master,” speaks to the code of silence that many women, and men, evoked in order to shield the devastating experiences of their lives from public view and to protect their children. The “impact statements” that the families of Knight, Berry and DeJesus voiced, echo the sense of loss and devastation that colonial and antebellum slave families experienced when subject to separation and sale; as well as the immense joy they felt when they received word of their kin’s survival or actual return.
Modern-day slaveholders also offer insight that tugs at debates regarding the past institution. Ariel Castro’s courtroom lament that he was not a “monster,” but rather a “good worker” and “father” who took his daughter to church on Sundays, sheds a harsh light on lingering myths of Southern patriarchy and paternalism. His justification of his abuse — that he was only physically violent when provoked and that his sexual acts with his captives were consensual, even requested — echoes apologists theories that the antebellum institution was a “positive good” and that concubinage implied “loving” relationships. The notion that the Kenyan and Filipina workers of Aayban flew first class and attended spas as an example of how well they were treated is reminiscent of the tauted material condition of some past slaves who paid dearly as a result — the domestics, for example, who had better clothing and food than average field slaves, but who spent much of their lives separated from their kin and friends and were much more likely to be physically brutalized by mistresses with whom they worked or sexually assaulted by masters who had close physical proximity.
Brenda E. Stevenson, professor of history at UCLA, is the author of Life in Black and White: Family and Community in the Slave South (Oxford University Press, 1996). The full essay was published at the History News Network on August 19, 2013.
Rebecca Hartkopf Schloss, Sweet Liberty: the Final Days of Slavery in Martinique (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009).
From its founding, Martinique played an integral role in France’s Atlantic empire. Established in the mid-seventeenth century as a colonial outpost against Spanish and English dominance in the Caribbean, the island was transformed by the increase in European demand for sugar, coffee, and indigo. Like other colonial subjects, Martinicans met the labor needs of cash-crop cultivation by establishing plantations worked by enslaved Africans and by adopting the rigidly hierarchical social structure that accompanied chattel slavery. After Haiti gained its independence in 1804, Martinique’s economic importance to the French empire increased. At the same time, questions arose, both in France and on the island, about the long-term viability of the plantation system, including debates about the ways colonists—especially enslaved Africans and free mixed-race individuals—fit into the French nation.
Sweet Liberty chronicles the history of Martinique from France’s reacquisition of the island from the British in 1802 to the abolition of slavery in 1848. Focusing on the relationship between the island’s widely diverse society and the various waves of French and British colonial administrations, Rebecca Hartkopf Schloss provides a compelling account of Martinique’s social, political, and cultural dynamics during the final years of slavery in the French empire. Schloss explores how various groups—Creole and metropolitan elites, petits blancs, gens de couleur, and enslaved Africans—interacted with one another in a constantly shifting political environment and traces how these interactions influenced the colony’s debates around identity, citizenship, and the boundaries of the French nation.
Kevin P. Murphy and Jennifer M. Spear, eds. Historicising Gender and Sexuality. (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011).
Historicising Gender and Sexuality features a diverse collection of essays that shed new light on the historical intersections between gender and sexuality across time and space.
Demonstrates both the particularities of specific formulations of gender and sexuality and the nature of the relationship between the categories themselves
Presents evidence that careful and contextualised analysis of the shifting relationship of gender and sexuality illuminates broader historical processes
Two essays may be of special interest to followers of #ADPhD:
Marisa J. Fuentes, “Power and Historical Figuring: Rachael Pringle Polgreen’s Troubled Archive,” in Historicising Gender and Sexuality: eds. Kevin P. Murphy and Jennifer M. Spear (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), 38-58.
Brooke N. Newman, “Gender, Sexuality and the Formation of Racial Identities in the Eighteenth-Century Anglo-Caribbean World,” in Historicising Gender and Sexuality: eds. Kevin P. Murphy and Jennifer M. Spear (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), 59-76.
Image Credit: Illustration by Thomas Rowlandson, published by William Holland (London, 1796); engraving held by the Barbados Museum [NW0184] as shown on http://www.slaveryimages.org, compiled by Jerome Handler and Michael Tuite, and sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library. (Click image for details)
Description from Duke University Press:
“Arguing that the fundamental, familiar, sexual violence of slavery and racialized subjugation have continued to shape black and white subjectivities into the present, Christina Sharpe interprets African diasporic and Black Atlantic visual and literary texts that address those “monstrous intimacies” and their repetition as constitutive of post-slavery subjectivity. Her illuminating readings juxtapose Frederick Douglass’s narrative of witnessing the brutal beating of his Aunt Hester with Essie Mae Washington-Williams’s declaration of freedom in Dear Senator: A Memoir by the Daughter of Strom Thurmond, as well as the “generational genital fantasies” depicted in Gayl Jones’s novel Corregidora with a firsthand account of such “monstrous intimacies” in the journals of an antebellum South Carolina senator, slaveholder, and vocal critic of miscegenation. Sharpe explores the South African–born writer Bessie Head’s novel Maru—about race, power, and liberation in Botswana—in light of the history of the KhoiSan woman Saartje Baartman, who was displayed in Europe as the “Hottentot Venus” in the nineteenth century. Reading Isaac Julien’s film The Attendant, Sharpe takes up issues of representation, slavery, and the sadomasochism of everyday black life. Her powerful meditation on intimacy, subjection, and subjectivity culminates in an analysis of Kara Walker’s black silhouettes, and the critiques leveled against both the silhouettes and the artist.”
Thomas, Greg. The Sexual Demon of Colonial Power: Pan-African Embodiment and Erotic Schemes of Empire. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007.
“The Sexual Demon of Colonial Power is a political, cultural, and intellectual study of race, sex, and Western empire. Greg Thomas interrogates a system that represents race, gender, sexuality, and class in certain systematic and oppressive ways. By connecting sex and eroticism to geopolitics both politically and epistemologically, he examines the logic, operations, and politics of sexuality in the West. The book focuses on the centrality of race, class, and empire to Western realities of “gender and sexuality” and to problematic Western attempts to theorize gender and sexuality (or embodiment). Addressing a wide range of intellectual disciplines, it holds out the hope for an analysis freed from the domination of white, Western terms of reference.”