A microhistorical inquiry into the life of Furcy, a man held in slavery in the French Indian Ocean colony of Île Bourbon (today Réunion), sheds light on shifting French policies and practices regarding race and slavery from the Old Regime to the general emancipation of 1848. The mobility of two enslaved domestic servants, Furcy and his mother Madeleine, who traveled between Bengal, Île Bourbon, Mauritius, and continental France, challenged French and British understandings of who could be legitimately held as slaves. Furcy's tenacious battle to win recognition of his freedom in multiple jurisdictions is a forgotten precursor to many international disputes over the juridical principle of Free Soil in the age of Emancipation.
Freedom Papers Hidden in His Shoe
Navigating Emancipation across Imperial Boundaries
Sexuality and Female Agency in Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth-Century Morocco
Chouki El Hamel
The tragic hero of North African slavery is female. In Morocco in the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, female slaves, mainly black women originally from West Africa, survived and sometimes thrived by forging emotional bonds with their masters. The striving for survival and the tragic drama of the female slaves' lives entailed emotional and sexual bonds via concubinage. For free Moroccan men concubinage was legalized and was secured by means of the connection to sexual desire. Concubines, that is, enslaved women, used, initially at least, this desire to secure a better position in a servile status within a society where gender was hierarchical: patrilineal and patriarchal. If it was legally and socially established for a male to be entitled to female slave sexuality, it was, as well, legally and socially conventional for the progeny of female slaves to inherit the father's legal status. I use the analysis of the concubinage system as a process to investigate the interplay of agency, emotions, sexuality, identity, race, and gender in Morocco.
Bringing Slavery into the Light in Postcolonial Portugal
The rhetoric and poetics of a slavery exhibition
Paula Mota Santos
. 6 Instead, he underlined that Portugal had been the first European nation to abolish slavery in 1761—but this date was of the abolition in the metropole alone (the trade was left untouched in the colonies). This situation provoked strong reactions
Slavery as the commodification of people
Wa "slaves" and their Chinese "sisters"
In the 1950s, teams of Chinese government ethnologists helped liberate “slaves” whom they identified among the Wa people in the course of China’s military annexation and pacification of the formerly autonomous Wa lands, between China and Burma. For the Chinese, the “discovery” of these “slaves” proved the Engels-Morganian evolutionist theory that the supposedly primitive and therefore predominantly egalitarian Wa society was teetering on the threshold between Ur- Communism and ancient slavery. A closer examination of the historical and cultural context of slavery in China and in the Wa lands reveals a different dynamics of commodification, which also sheds light on slavery more generally. In this article I discuss the rejection of slavery under Wa kinship ideology, the adoption of child war captives, and the anomalous Chinese mine slaves in the Wa lands. I also discuss the trade in people emerging with the opium export economy of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century which helped sustain, yet also threatened, autonomous Wa society. I suggest that past Wa “slave” trade was spurred by the same processes of commodification that historically drove the Chinese trade in people, and in recent decades have produced the large-scale human trafficking across Asia, which UN officials have labeled “the largest slave trade in history” and which often hides slavery under the cover of kinship.
French Slavery and Modern Political Culture
Pierre H. Boulle
Sue Peabody, “There Are No Slaves in France”: The Political Culture of Race and Slavery in the Ancien Régime (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996).
Laurent Dubois, Les Esclaves de la République. L’histoire oubliée de la première émancipation, 1789-1794, transl. by Jean-François Chaix (Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 2000).
Sartre, Fanon, and the Case for Slavery Reparations
In this article I argue that Fanon articulates a more complex relationship between his notion of radical freedom and slavery reparations that allows for the possibility of demanding the latter without sacrificing the former. While at times Fanon seems to posit a simple dilemma according to which one must choose between freedom and reparations, he also describes a vicious cycle in which the taking of material reparations appears to be a precondition for freedom, yet the claim for reparations appears to come at the cost of adoption of a constraining cultural identity. In other words, the process of attaining the material conditions necessary for radical freedom through slavery reparations can have the opposite effect of inhibiting freedom. The question of the possibility of taking reparations without sacrificing freedom becomes a question about the possibility of thinking about enslaved Africans and their descendants as a collective entitled to reparations without positing a constraining cultural identity.
Silence and the politics of compassion. Commemorating slavery in the Netherlands
Looking at the commemoration of slavery in the Netherlands, this article makes a twofold argument. First, my aim is to complicate the notions of historical silence, ‘erasure’ and ‘secrecy’ that have informed many post‐ and decolonial projects. I show that the violence and brutality of slavery are in some cases even showcased. The result is an often self‐congratulatory image of a humanism that is often seen as ‘typically’ Dutch. At the same time, the national slavery memorial has shown that engaging in a politics of compassion can offer ground to refashion post‐colonial futures. Here, humanism is neither accepted at face value nor discarded as damaged goods, but salvaged and held to its promise. Second, I analyse the politics of multiculturalism, and the related search for cultural essences in which ‘culture’ and ‘nation’ have turned into objects of love and anxiety. While analyses have rightly understood emotions such as compassion as neoliberal models of governance, I argue that such structures of feeling also have colonial roots. The highly affective politics of belonging and exclusion today can be more fully understood if their colonial roots are included in the analysis.
Slave Flight, Slave Torture, and the State
Nineteenth-Century French Guiana
This article explores the relationship between law and violence against slaves in nineteenth-century French Guiana. Drawing on unpublished sources from the colonial archives, Spieler examines the linked problems of slave abuse and slave flight to understand the evolving character of the French imperial state in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars. In the early nineteenth century, after the abolition of the slave trade, imperial administrators in Guiana contested the proprietary privileges of masters and lay claim to the right to punish slaves. During the 1820s and 1830s, slave testimony—especially the testimony of abused slaves (inside and outside the courtroom)—became unexpectedly central to this dispute between masters and administrators about the source of legitimate violence and the meaning of imperial sovereignty.
Learning to Remember Slavery
School Field Trips and the Representation of Difficult Histories in English Museums
Drawing on the fields of education, memory, and cultural studies, this article argues that as important cultural memory products, government-sponsored museum education initiatives require the same attention that history textbooks receive. It investigates the performance of recent shifts in historical consciousness in the context of museum field trip sessions developed in England in tandem with the 2007 bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade. Analysis of fieldwork data is presented in order to illustrate some of the complexities inherent in the way difficult histories are represented and taught to young people in the twenty-first century, particularly in relation to citizenship education.
Between Resistance and the State
Caribbean Activism and the Invention of a National Memory of Slavery in France
pressing goals of this state organization was to direct the growing interest in the commemoration of the history of slavery away from the “simplification … of memory” to the “complexity of history.” She believed that “cette phase de la mémoire s’est achevée