Tag Archives: Colonialism

Book Review: Human Zoos

A new review by postgraduate research student Emily Trafford of the University of Liverpool’s School of Histories, Languages and Cultures has been added to the research section of the Black Atlantic Resource, which looks at the 2008 publication Human Zoos.

P. Blanchard, N. Bancel, G. Boёtsch, É. Deroo, S. Lemaire, C. Forsdick (eds), Human Zoos: Science and Spectacle in the Age of Colonial Empires, 2008 (Liverpool University Press: Liverpool)

This recent collection of essays on the display of human otherness moves beyond the wave of freak show literature of the 1980s and ‘90s, and seeks to provide a more comprehensive overview of this peculiar exhibitionary practice. The display of the exotic Other for entertainment, education, and supposedly the advancement of scientific knowledge, occurred in numerous guises throughout imperial nations in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The strength of the volume lies in its scope – in terms of time and place, the historical characters and stories that emerge, and the disciplinary approaches that its contributors utilise – all of which make Human Zoos a valuable resource …read more

If you are interested in contributing a book review to the Black Atlantic Resource please contact us.

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The Brown Atlantic: Re-thinking Post-Slavery

Lai Fong, The Coolie Ship Avon Under Full Sail, c.1898

Lai Fong, The Coolie Ship Avon Under Full Sail, c.1898
The above ship carried South Asian indentured labourers across the Atlantic to replace the post-Slavery workforce.

The phenomenon of Indenture, which is addressed in the new concept of the Brown Atlantic, is introduced in the first essay in a series of three.  Entitled, ‘The Brown Atlantic: Re-thinking Post-Slavery’, Devi Hardeen’s study will present the interconnection of the Black and Brown Atlantic.

“Following a recent workshop, ‘The French Atlantic: A “Tricoloured” Ocean’, held at the International Slavery Museum (ISM), Liverpool, I was kindly invited to contribute to this ‘Black Atlantic Resource Debate’. One of the rationales of the inter-institutional project at the ISM was to develop greater recognition of Liverpool’s post-Slavery trading past. It is little known that four years after Emancipation, the first ships for South Asian Atlantic Indenture would embark from the city’s ports. The possibility of a site to reflect Liverpool’s continuing post-Slavery role was raised at the workshop. It was discussed that such a site would reflect the historical nexus between the metropole and the country of origin, India, in the legacies of Slavery. In Benjamin Disraeli’s ‘jewel in the crown’, a memorial plaque in Kolkata was inaugurated in January 2011 to commemorate Indenture. The site of museums as an interface between research, academia, and the public that can inform of the events and processes of Atlantic Slavery and its aftermath, led to positive discussions.

“Writing for this website, visitors will note that two years ago, again in partnership with National Museums Liverpool, seminars were held on the subject of ‘Re-thinking Post-slavery [sic] in the Francophone Caribbean’. Addressing that theme, within the scope of this essay, three main arguments will be attempted. In a three-fold approach, this essay will firstly introduce the new concept of the tri-partite ‘Brown Atlantic’. Thereafter, the first dimension of the concept, ‘Past’ will map the phenomenon of South Asian Atlantic Indenture. Thirdly, from this arena, study will focus on the Francophone and Creolophone mid-Atlantic island of Martinique. It will be discussed how we might ‘re-think post-Slavery’ by evaluating the impact of the Brown Atlantic, and by examining possible future avenues of exploration in the post-Slavery Atlantic world. ”

To read Devi Hardeen’s article ‘The Brown Atlantic”Re-thinking Post-Slavery” in full click here.

Updated Symposium Programme: Representations of Slavery

Please note that the program me for the Representations of Slavery in Neoliberal Times Symposium to be held at the University of Newcastle on Friday 25th May has been updated and will now take place as below:

Selected images from : Positive Negative Guardian Paperworks via: http://www.lubainahimid.info/

Programme of events

1.oopm – Refreshments available

1.10 – 1.15 – Welcome by Conference Co-Convener

Carolyn Pedwell, School of Arts and Cultures, Newcastle University

1:15 – 2:15 – Lubaina Himid, Centre for Contemporary Art, University of Central Lancashire

Negative Positives: The Guardian, The Slave, The Wit and The Money

Chair: Daniel McNeil, School of Arts and Cultures, Newcastle University

2:15 – 3:15 – Julia O’Connell Davidson

School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Nottingham

Debt, Freedom and Slavery in Neoliberal Times

Chair: Anne Graefer, School of Arts and Cultures, Newcastle University

3:15 – 3.45 – Coffee break

3.45 – 4.45Carolyn Pedwell,

Alternative Empathies: Representing Slavery’s Affective Afterlives

Chair: John Richardson, School of Arts and Cultures, Newcastle University

4.45 – 5.45 – Roundtable

Dr. Kate Manzo (Geography, Newcastle University)

Dr. Diana Paton (History, Newcastle University)

Dr. Rachel Wells (Fine Art, Newcastle University)

Chair: Daniel McNeil

6.00pm – Wine Reception

Northern Stage

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Abstracts

Negative Positives: The Guardian, The Slave, The Wit and The Money

Lubaina Himid, Centre for Contemporary Art, University of Central Lancashire

This essentially visual presentation will attempt to show how The Guardian newspaper in 2007, and then just as strongly during subsequent years, constantly suggests that European sports teams and clubs disproportionally overspend when buying, selling and keeping black players.  While this is not an unusual stance by journalists in the British sporting press, The Guardian by frequently and jokily representing footballers and athletes via mocking photographs, degrading texts and or damaging juxtapositions of both, subtly ‘reminds’ its readers, many of whom are public health and social workers, teachers and academics as well as workers in the creative industries, of historically familiar racial stereotypes. The newspaper designers, by taking this approach, contribute to a situation in which the athletes remain within a ‘state of unbelonging’.

Much of Lubaina Himid’s recent creative visual practice has been taken up with building this archive of images and texts. The creation of a series of paper works, Negative Positives, in which ‘over-painting to emphasise’ has gone some way towards reclaiming the dignity of the people represented has however, to some degree, minimalised the findings and rendered them outside the debates they were intended to develop. Through the sharing of a range of these collected images both overpainted and in their original state, many from the year of commemoration 2007, Himid will invite discussion around how this subtle and oftentimes witty degradation of wealthy black elites undermines the campaigns opposed to contemporary slavery while at the same time visually fixing the black person as ‘other’ to be bought and sold.

 

Debt, Freedom and Slavery in Neoliberal Times

Julia O’Connell Davidson, University of Nottingham

In dominant discourse on ‘trafficking’, mobility, debt and dependence are configured in a very particular way and the kind of debt involved is clearly marked as disturbing, dangerous, illegal, morally wrong. The trafficker’s objective is to make repayment impossible and so to establish personal, inescapable, and highly asymmetrical relations of power and dependency. Relations between trafficker and victim are represented as the very antithesis of freedom – trafficking is frequently referred to as ‘modern slavery’. And yet debt that generates relations of dependency is also often a feature of forms of mobility that are legally sanctioned; debt that compels people to take on work that they would otherwise refuse is hardly uncommon in Western liberal democracies; and the techniques used to recover legally sanctioned loans from citizen-debtors can be highly coercive. But legally sanctioned debt, backed by the coercive powers of the state, is not framed as ‘modern slavery’. Indeed, in neoliberal times, access to credit, i.e., the ability to indebt oneself by entering into socially sanctioned creditor-debtor relations, is a marker of social inclusion, something that both reflects and affirms political belonging and subjectivity. Starting from an interest in debt as a social relation, and in questions about why some debt relations are sanctioned while others are denounced, this paper is concerned with the ways in which liberal discourse on freedom, rights and citizenship constructs particular types of debt and dependency as ‘modern slavery’ while endorsing other arrangements that, from the vantage point of the individual affected, may appear equally if not more pernicious.

Alternative Empathies: Representing Slavery’s Affective Afterlives

Carolyn Pedwell, Newcastle University

Against the dominant universalist injunction to ‘be empathetic’, this paper explores the possibilities  of alternative histories, practices and affects of empathy in the context of postcoloniality and neoliberalism.  Offering a critical reading of Antiguan American author Jamaica Kincaid’s postcolonial  text  A Small Place (1988), it examines how empathy expressed at the margins of our social and geo-political imaginaries might disrupt or refigure some of the dominant ways that affect is thought and mobilised in liberal and neoliberal discourses.  As a powerful commentary on the political, economic and affective links between colonialism and slavery and contemporary practices of tourism in the Caribbean that has provoked intense emotional responses among its readers, A Small Place offers a pertinent site through which to explore how history, power and violence shape the meanings and effects of empathy.  It illustrates how the affective afterlives of colonialism, slavery and racism shape contemporary subjectivities in ways that are not easy to penetrate, nor possible to undo, through the power of empathetic will or imagination alone.  In doing so, Kincaid’s text also considers the role that alternative empathies can play in interrogating the idea of time as linear, progressive and universal.  The continuing dialogue with loss and its aftermath that alternative empathies can engender, I argue, allows for engaging with ‘the performative force of the past’ (Munoz, 2009) in ways that invite us to break from fixed patterns and positionings and enter into a ‘more   demanding’, and potentially more ethical, relationship to the world and our being in it (Kincaid, 1988: 57).  I thus explore how alternative empathies might open out to affective politics which do not view emotions instrumentally as sources of – or solutions to – complex social and political problems, but rather examine diverse and shifting feeling states for what they tell us about the affective workings of power in a transnational world.

Appropriated Landscapes: The Walther Collection

Embedded in the picturesque, unassuming Bavarian town of Ulm, Germany, is a fascinating plot of land. It contains three unusual looking buildings: three houses

Opening of Appropriated Landscapes at the Walther Collection, June 2011 photo: The Walther Collection (flickr)

– one is traditional, covered in ivy, another black, mostly windowless, with a trendy interior and then a white cube, two stories high with a vast underground level. This is the home of the Walther Collection, and currently the exhibition, ‘Appropriated Landscapes’. Each year a new curator creates a show from the collection, and this one is part of a three-year project focusing on the holdings of African photography.

The show, curated by Corrine Diserens, explores the effects of colonization, war and ideology on physical and psychological landscapes of South Africa. Around 200 images are displayed by 14 artists including recent work from Jane Alexander and Guy Tillim as well as newly commissioned pieces from Ângela Ferreira, Christine Meisner, and Peter Friedl.

Each house has a different atmosphere. With its low ceilings and intimate rooms the Green House is perfectly suited to exhibit the small-scale work of two of South Africa’s most prominent photographers; David Goldblatt and Santu Mofokeng. At a time when ‘struggle’ documentary photography was playing a crucial role in exposing the horrors of apartheid in a most palpable manner, Goldblatt chose instead to look at the effects of this system in a different way. From the early 1960s he photographed the deep rooted effects of apartheid by veering towards the eventless, the ‘unnatural’ nature of the man-altered South African landscape. Santu Mofokeng’s work too engages with the concept of landscape as the mute witness to history. His photographs depict the previously undocumented, everyday life of the ‘forgotten society’ of black South Africans in the townships. Though trauma is manifested in this landscape, the key theme that emerges through Mofokeng’s images is survival.

In the Black House, Jo Ractliffe’s new body of work on Angola’s civil war is premiered. Ractliffe visited Angola at the end of the war and for two years traveled with South African and Angolan ex-soldiers through what Portuguese colonials referred to as “As Terras do Fim do Mundo” – the lands of the end of the world. The haunting images produced show a scarred landscape. Unease is purposefully implied through unusually inhabited images of unintelligible signage, mass graves, and vast spaces with solitary, strange objects.

In the main exhibition space – the architecturally striking White Box – are photographs and video installations. Most striking is the presentation of the work of Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse. The subject of their collaboration is Ponte City: a 54-storey cylindrical building situated in the centre of Johannesburg. This is the tallest residential tower block in Africa and a politically important building; abandoned by white residents, it is now a precarious home to thousands of squatters and so represents a place of constant struggle. The artists’ have displayed lightbox panels divided into three themes: doors, windows and TVs. Presented on large screens suspended from the ceiling, the 12-channel digital slide projection provides a multitude of perspectives on the contemporary skyline of the city of Johannesburg from the point of view of the residents, giving a new resonance to the work.

Guy Tillim disarms colonial inheritance, not merely recording collapsed histories but “a walk through an avenue of dreams”. His highly composed photographs show urban decay and disorder, leading one to question the aestheticisation of poverty by an outsider. The video work of Penny Siopis and Peter Freidl’s films work to analyse narrative tools in colonialized surroundings and the perilous public sphere. In contrast to much of the exhibition, Zanele Muholi and Sabelo Mlangeni’s photographs are ‘peopling’ the landscape with marginal groups. Muholi, working with victims of hate crime, undermines the ethnographic archive by exploring sexual indeterminacy and the scrambling of codes. In the Country Girls series Mlangeni visits cross-dressing communities in rural South Africa exploring masculine intimacy to a poignant effect.

The scars of memory and history on the land expand the definition of landscape. The images displayed together here as Appropriated Landscapes depict the trajectory – from production through reception to the legacy – of these scars which have shaped the land. The exhibition asks important questions about the relationship between history and memory, the role of the photographer, and the problems of moving on from a trauma embedded in the very landscape.

To view images of works in the Appropriated Landscapes exhibition click here and follow the links for specific artists within each building.

Contributed by: Hannah-Grace Fitzpatrick

New Publication: The Anatomy of Blackness

The Anatomy of Blackness: Science and Slavery in an Age of Enlightenment (The John Hopkins University Press) by Andrew S. Curran

This volume examines the Enlightenment-era textualization of the Black African in European thought. Andrew S. Curran rewrites the history of blackness by replicating the practices of eighteenth-century readers. Surveying French and European travelogues, natural histories, works of anatomy, pro- and anti-slavery tracts, philosophical treatises, and literary texts, Curran shows how naturalists and philosophes drew from travel literature to discuss the perceived problem of human blackness within the nascent human sciences, describes how a number of now-forgotten anatomists revolutionized the era’s understanding of black Africans, and charts the shift of the slavery debate from the moral, mercantile, and theological realms toward that of the “black body” itself. In tracing this evolution, he shows how blackness changed from a mere descriptor in earlier periods into a thing to be measured, dissected, handled, and often brutalized.

Andrew S. Curran is a professor of French at Wesleyan University and a fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine in the history of medicine. He is the author of Sublime Disorder: Physical Monstrosity in Diderot’s Universe.

In and Out of Brussels: Africa Inside Europe

A project by TJ Demos (University College London) and Hilde Van Gelder (KULeuven)

In and Out of Brussels: Africa Inside Europe represents a multifaceted project, including an intensive collaboration between international theoreticians, art critics, and Brussels-based artists over a two year period, operating on various levels of production and output. It centers on four recent and in-progress art films by Herman Asselberghs, Sven Augustijnen, Renzo Martens, and Els Opsomer, two of which will be newly produced within the framework of this project. In addition to assisting financially with the production of these two films, the project will organize three interdisciplinary debates (one of which will be public), an exhibition, and a book publication, which will correspond to these four films.

Specifically, the project addresses the diverse ways in which these artists have investigated sub-Saharan Africa both as a site of political conflict, poverty, and migration, as well as an imaginary screen for the construction of European identity, humanitarian concern, and political engagement. Martens’ provocative film Episode III – Enjoy Poverty (2008; recipient of the Culture Prize of the Flemish Community in 2010) investigates poverty in the DR Congo, challenging the common perceptions of humanitarianism, photojournalism and politically engaged contemporary art; Augustijnen’s Spectres, a 90 min. film that will premier at the Kunstenfestivaldes arts in May 2011, powerfully analyses Belgian colonial history, in particular the haunting of cultural memory by the assassination of Patrice Lumumba.

Opsomer’s film, a work in progress, proposes a subtle perceptual inquiry into Senegal’s urban fabric and social networks that seeks to rupture cultural stereotypes; and Asselberghs’ proposed film, a self-reflexive inquiry, plans to consider the political motivations of contemporary artists—including Martens, Augustijnen, and Opsomer—whose films focus on Africa, placing these motivations in historical perspective by comparing them with the earlier engagements of filmmakers such as Jean-Luc Godard, Chris Marker, and Pier Paolo Pasolini who also filmed on the continent. In the works of these diverse practitioners, Africa emerges variously as a zone of crisis, situated between the fraught legacies of colonialism and the recent failed neoliberal state; as well, Africa figures as a terrain of artistic invention and a focal point for the critical interrogation of political practice within Europe.

The project intends to parse the political and aesthetic implications of these four films, generating discussion via interdisciplinary and international conversation. Its multiple outcomes include: 1) Four symposia gathering international and interdisciplinary participants to discuss the project’s films; 2) A book project that will integrate the edited transcripts of the four conversations, which will include photographic portfolios of imagery from the films; and 3) An exhibition that will combine the screening of all four films and offer the opportunity for an international book-release event, both in Brussels and at a venue in London. At present we have received confirmation that University of Leuven Press will publish the book, and that Wiels will consider hosting a simultaneous book-release reception and an exhibition/screening of all the project’s films.

Saturday May 21, 2011 (14.00) a by-invitation seminar on Sven Augustijnen’s new film Spectres (2011) will take place at Wiels, Contemporary Art Centre (Brussels). Augustijnen’s Spectres, that will premier at the Brussels KunstenFestivaldesArts on May 7, 2011, powerfully analyses Belgian colonial history, in particular the haunting of cultural memory by the assassination of Patrice Lumumba.

The seminar will consist of a number of interventions by an interdisciplinary panel of distinguished speakers: Sven Augustijnen (artist, Brussels), Dirk Snauwaert (Director, Wiels Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels), Filip Deboeck (Institute for Antropological Research in Africa, K.U.Leuven), Françoise Vergès (Lecturer Postcolonial Studies, Goldsmiths, London). This will be followed by a debate moderated by T.J. Demos and Hilde Van Gelder.

Program:
11.00: Screening of Spectres at Wiels
14.00: Seminar followed by debate

This seminar is generously supported by the Fondation Fernand Willame, Stichting van Openbaar Nut (Belgium), Wiels and K.U.Leuven. More information is available at: http://www.lievengevaertcentre.be/research_projects.htm

Participation to this workshop is by invitation only. However, it will be possible to applicants who send a motivated letter by May 14th, 2011, to fill in potentially remaining places. Please send your letter before this date to: jeroen.verbeeck@student.kuleuven.be.

A Living Man from Africa: Jan Tzatzoe, Xhosa Chief and Missionary, and the Making of Nineteenth-Century South Africa

Born into a Xhosa royal family around 1792 in South Africa, Jan Tzatzoe was destined to live in an era of profound change—one that witnessed the arrival and entrenchment of European colonialism. As a missionary, chief, and cultural intermediary on the eastern Cape frontier and in Cape Town and a traveler in Great Britain, Tzatzoe helped foster the merging of African and European worlds into a new South African reality. Yet, by the 1860s, despite his determined resistance, he was an oppressed subject of harsh British colonial rule. In this innovative, richly researched, and splendidly written biography, Roger S. Levine reclaims Tzatzoe’s lost story and analyzes his contributions to, and experiences with, the turbulent colonial world to argue for the crucial role of Africans as agents of cultural and intellectual change.

Yale University Press has recently published A Living Man From Africa: Jan Tzatzoe, Xhosa Chief and Missionary, and the Making of Nineteenth Century South Africa ($30 hardcover) by Roger S. Levine, Associate Professor of History at Sewanee: The University of the South.

This book is the first to be published in a new series, New Directions in Narrative History. It brings the colonial encounter to life while providing a fascinating account of the South Africa of the nineteenth century and one of her most interesting sons: Jan Tzatzoe – world traveler, chief, missionary, and cultural intermediary.  For more information visit the publisher’s website at:

http://yalepress.yale.edu/book.asp?isbn=9780300125214