1. The Middle Passage as Cultural Memory
Equiano, Olaudah. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano: Or, Gustavus Vassa the African, 1789 (Vol. I). London: Dawsons, 1969. Print.
This autobiography describes the extraordinary life of Olaudah Equiano, who was captured in West Africa (eastern Nigeria today) and sold into slavery at age eleven. Equiano’s narrative offers the earliest, and perhaps the only, first-person account of the harrowing Middle Passage experience. The author was first a slave to a British naval officer for several years, who exposed him to Christianity. He was later sold to a Quaker merchant, who allowed Equiano to purchase his own freedom in 1766. Equiano describes his subsequent move to London, where he committed himself to the abolitionist cause. The book’s conclusion advocates Christianity, morality, and the abolition of slavery.
James, C. L. R. The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution. New York: Vintage Books, 1989. Print.
Chronicles the history of slavery and slave revolt in the French colony of Saint Domingue, which became the nation of Haiti (and later the Dominican Republic) after a long struggle for independence. James gives early imaginings of Columbus landing on the shores of Hispaniola in search of gold, slavers scouring for human cargo on the coasts of Africa, and the agonizing journey of the Middle Passage. During the period of unrest that led to revolt in 1790-1, James details the tense communiqués between France and San Domingo, including his analysis of France’s shifting decrees in response to unrest. The prevailing rationale to preserve slavery, James explains, was to preserve France’s prowess in oceanic commerce.
The Black Jacobins narrates the rise of Toussaint L’Ouverture during San Domingo’s revolt; James portrays L’Ouverture as a courageous fighter and an astute politician. L’Ouverture made an uneasy alliance with Spain in the campaign to expel French forces from the island, and later orchestrated the expulsion of the Spanish. L’Ouverture also led the defense of the island against invading British, Spanish and French forces, even as San Domingo maintained commercial relations with these nations. Because Haiti’s economy depended so heavily on sugar exports, the young nation had to establish itself even as imperial ships trafficked its shores.
Williams, Eric. Capitalism and Slavery. UNC Press Books, 1994. Print.
Argues that the primary motivation for the slave trade was capital gain and as such, slavery was fundamental to the growth of capitalism in the international economy. Williams’ analyses focus specifically on Britain’s accumulation of capital both in the American colonies and, after the revolution, in the West Indies. The accumulation of wealth through the trade of slaves and the raw materials they produced, Williams argues, enabled investment in the machinery that fueled Britain’s Industrial Revolution. He also highlights how the trans-Atlantic slave trade led to deterioration in West Africa while Europe was greatly enriched. An important detail for this bibliography is how the concept of race that prevails today began with the slave trade. Item not seen.
Césaire, Aimé. The Original 1939 Notebook of A Return to the Native Land: Bilingual Edition. Trans. A. James Arnold and Clayton Eshleman. Middletown, Conn: Wesleyan University, 2013. Print.
Césaire’s furious, plangent and defiant poem describes the Antilles islands as a wretched, revolting land. This mute, inert land “pitted by smallpox, dynamited by alcohol” is very much a projection of the poet’s psychosocial perceptions. The decaying environs of Césaire’s Antilles are a stand-in for the psychological neuroses that centuries of colonization and racist dehumanization has caused for the islands’ inhabitants.
Négritude is Césaire’s redeeming ideology, which gives the poem its resilience. Négritude as expressed in Notebook is what was then a revolutionary idea that “it-is-beautiful-good-and-legitimate-to-be-a-nigger“ (verse 109). For Césaire, the nearby island of Haiti is “where negritude rose for the first time and stated that it believed in its humanity” (34). Martinique, for the poet, was still in the process of awakening to the racial consciousness that négritude represented. The potent symbol of the slave ship on its transatlantic voyage is where Césaire imagines this awakening: “And the nigger scum is on its feet// the seated nigger scum/ unexpectedly standing/ standing in the hold/ standing in the cabins/ standing on the deck/ standing in the wind/ standing under the sun/ standing in the blood/ standing/ and/ free” (107-8).
Hayden, Robert. “Middle Passage.” Collected Poems. Ed. Frederick Glaysher. New York; London: Liveright Publishing Corporation, 1996. 48-54. Print.
Confronts one of the most tortured memories of the American collective experience. The poet narrates the “voyage through death” as he imagines the anguish of chattel slaves tight-packed below the decks. Slaves singing as they jump from the ship to feeding sharks, crewman casting lots to lie with “the comeliest/ of the savage girls,” and unconscionable African slave traders are a few of the painful topics readers encounter.
In an inventive twist, the poet inverts roles by imagining the Amistad revolt. There is an implicit judgment of slavery’s inhumanity when white slavers become victims begging those they enslaved for mercy. Hayden remembers this “voyage through death” without forgetting “life upon these shores.” “Middle Passage” is thus homage to the past that keeps an eye on the present and the future.
Harris, Wilson. “History, Fable and Myth in the Caribbean and Guianas.” Selected Essays of Wilson Harris: The Unfinished Genesis of the Imagination. London; New York: Routledge, 1999. Print.
Contemplates the attempts on the part of black communities in the Americas to imagine their history, which has otherwise been discarded, misrepresented or marginalized. Harris (1970) argues black history in the Americas began in the Middle Passage as part of a “renascence of a new corpus of sensibility that could translate and accommodate African and other legacies within a new architecture of cultures” (158). Because this corpus is both African and American, Harris reflects, it makes sense that its new spatiality was formed over the waters between the two landmasses.
Morejón, Nancy. “Mujer Negra (Black Woman).” Proyecto Ensayo Hispánico. Ed. Gómez-Martínez. N.d. Web. 8 Mar. 2015.
In this brief poem (1975), Morejón addresses the historical legacies of the transatlantic slave trade, the Middle Passage, plantation slavery, imperialist capitalism and national liberation. The poem’s speaker declares she can still smell the spume of the sea she was forced to cross, and she recalls her trials as a slave until she came down from the Sierra (evoking the Cuban Revolution) to do away with the money-lenders, generals and the bourgeoisie. Where they planted a tree for communism, the poem concludes, its generous wood still resounds.
Walcott, Derek. “The Sea is History.” Poets.org. Academy of American Poets, 2007. Web. 18 Feb. 2015.
Explores the memory of the transatlantic slave trade, new world slavery, the struggle for emancipation and the right to vote. “The Sea is History” (1980) imagines the poem’s speaker being interrogated by “sirs” who ask about his/her history. The speaker assures these sirs his/her history is locked away in the sea’s grey vault. As Walcott describes these memories sinking into the vault, he shows they are at once irretrievable and impossible to forget. The poet alludes to this haunting past while linking each moment to a biblical scripture. In this way, the poem shows black history in the Americas is neither less significant nor less momentous, and yet there is no great book that narrates it. The poem in a sense is Walcott’s attempt to salvage that lost history.
Walcott, Derek. “The Antilles: Fragments of Epic Memory.” Nobel Laureates in Search of Identity and Integrity: Voices of Different Cultures. Ed. Anders Hallengren. New Jersey: World Scientific, 2004. iucat.iu.edu. Web. 9 Mar. 2015.
Reflecting on the performance of Ramleela, the dramatization of the Hindu epic Ramayana, in the Trinidadian village of Felicity, Walcott seeks to complicate perceptions of the amalgam of disjointed, fragmentary cultures of the Antilles. Walcott ruminates on the denigrating appraisals of Antillean culture as “illegitimate, rootless, mongrelized,” but gestures toward recovery and revaluation: “Break a vase, and the love that reassembles the fragments is stronger than that love which took its symmetry for granted when it was whole.”
In light of vacationers in search of a Caribbean staged for post-card photos, even as “[t]he sea sighs with the drowned from the Middle Passage, the butchery of its aborigines,” Walcott sees a cultural loss in the act of impoverished islanders selling themselves in this way. Amid these erosions of selfhood, Walcott asserts to posterity the fact of Antillean culture.
2. Atlantic World Scholarship Meets the Black Imaginary
Emory University. The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database. Emory University, 2008, 2009. Web. 18 Apr. 2015.
This interactive website offers detailed and comprehensive data on the Trans-Atlantic slave trade between 1501 and 1866. Site features include numerous essays; trade route maps; images of archive maps, trade registries, drawings of ships and slaves; total estimates of slaves taken into the trade according to temporal cohorts; lists of slave ship captains names; and records of African names differentiated by region of origin.
Stevens, Laura M. “Transatlanticism Now.” American Literary History 16.1 (2004): 93–102. Googlescholar. Web. 14 Feb. 2015.
Situates scholarship on transatlantic literary imaginaries in the context of the burgeoning field of Atlantic History. The period between 1500 and 1800, for Stevens, is the most important for Atlantic history because this is the time that most dramatically altered transatlantic connections. It is precisely these connections, the article continues, that make Atlantic nations and nationalisms impossible to study in isolation.
Stevens puts David Armitage’s “Three Concepts of Atlantic History” in dialogue with cultural theorists like Paul Gilroy and Benedict Anderson, as well as literary historians like Paul Giles, William Donoghue and W. M. Verhoeven. The author sees “imagined communities” in the Americas forming out of a multidirectional flow of people and ideas. Stevens focuses on pre-modern authors like Jane Austen, Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Anthony Trollope, Olaudah Equiano and Edgar Allan Poe. She imagines the ocean as “a site of almost empty surfaces but richly populated depths, a place that must be passed through rather than settled on, and a vast territory whose edges change with the hours" (93).
Morgan, Philip D. “The cultural implications of the Atlantic slave trade: African regional origins, American destinations and new world developments.” Slavery & Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies, 18:1 (1997) 122-145. Googlescholar. Web. 31 Mar. 2015
Surveys scholarly investigations of the statistical records of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Morgan synthesizes the collaborative work of David Eltis, David Richardson and Stephen D. Behrendt at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research at Harvard. The project, he explains, was to compile “information on all known individual voyages drawn from the records of all the major European and American slaving powers“ (124). Morgan asserts that broad summaries of slave trade records obscure significant changes in trading patterns over time. “Aggregate, sequential and structural analyses,” Morgan notes, “emphasize the complexity of the slave trade” (127). Citing by Eltis and Richardson, Morgan asserts that the variety of African cultures taken into slavery resulted in fewer ‘carryovers’ of African culture in the black diaspora than previously thought. Morgan emphasizes the case of Cuba, which trafficked slaves from so many regions, by arguing that the loss of culture and language was severe. This research is very interesting, and surprising, considering the continued practice in Cuba of Lukumi, a language and religion derivative of Yoruba in present-day Nigeria and Benin.
Morgan explains why his research emphasizes records of slaves arriving in the Americas and not on those leaving Africa, even though he recognizes the political complexities that influenced the slave trade in Africa are very significant. Morgan’s decision not to focus on Africa in any profound way shows to be deeply flawed when he claims that long journeys from interior Africa ‘probably’ eroded the ethnic and cultural identity of captives by the time they got to port. Judging from generalized statements concerning Senegambia and the Yoruba, Morgan and the scholars he cites demonstrate a very superficial understanding of ethnicity in West Africa.
Mann, Kristin. “Shifting Paradigms in the Study of the African Diaspora and of Atlantic History and Culture.” Slavery & Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies, 22.1 (2001) 3-21. Googlescholar. Web. 14 Feb. 2015.
Engages with the burgeoning academic discourse between scholars of Africa and scholars of the Americas, and seeks to redress a discursive impasse. Mann argues there have been two prevailing paradigms in the study of the black diaspora in relation with Africa. The first paradigm, put forth by Melville Herskovits, viewed manifestations of black culture in the Americas as the product of ‘survivals’ retained from Africa. In the 1970s, Richard Price, Sally Price and Sidney Mintz “emphasized innovation and adaptation within black cultures of the New World and argued for the development of hybrid creole culture” (5). Mann takes these paradigms apart by revealing not only the complexities in black diaspora cultures but also their variety across geographical specificity in the Americas. She concludes by calling for representations of the “African diaspora beyond simple oppositions, unitary models and static constructions to more varied, complex and fluid accounts that come closer to capturing the unfolding experiences of Africans and their descendants throughout the Atlantic world” (16).
Sandiford, Keith Albert. Theorizing a Colonial Caribbean-Atlantic Imaginary: Sugar and Obeah. New York: Routledge, 2011. Print.
Establishes the author’s use of the term imaginary by building on Cornelius Castoriadis’s definition, which Sandiford characterizes as “the magma or creative force from which a society’s cultural origins may be traced” (1). Sandiford views the foundation of the colonial Caribbean-Atlantic imaginary as an extension of western literary works like Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Milton’s Paradise Lost. The sections most relevant for this bibliography are “Introduction,” “The Imaginary as a Poetics of Theory and Crosscultural Consciousness,” and “Sugar and the Ocean.”
The growth of black consciousness in the colonial Caribbean-Atlantic, Sandiford argues, stood in direct contrast to the order that colonizing slaveholders sought to establish. Slavocrats sought to fetishize sugar, which was so important to their capitalist enterprise, while the slaves’ conception of obeah (folk religion) as disease undermined the precepts of plantation society. Sandiford posits that limbo, vodun, and slave-indigenous creolization created myths that encountered one another, flowed through one another, and metamorphosed to form a novel consciousness in black-indigenous America.
Clément, Vincent. “Latitude and Longitude of the Past: Puce, Negritude and French Caribbean Identity in Aimé Césaire’s Poetry.” Caribbean Studies 39.1/2 (2011): 171–193. Web. 14 Feb. 2015.
Connects geographical descriptions in Césaire’s Notebook of a Return to Native Land with the natural landscape of the poet’s home island of Martinique. Clément portrays Notebook as the poet’s search for “geographic coordinates lost in the wake of the slave ships” (173). Through the act of writing, Clément argues Césaire creates a new French Caribbean identity and geography.
Clément later analyzes the political energy at work in the poem. He includes Césaire’s transformative experience living in France, where he first discovered his “otherness” as a black man in Paris. Clément describes Césaire meeting Léopold Sédar Senghor and their creation of the négritude movement. He notes that Césaire was critiqued for privileging Africa over the Antilles in his poetry, and shows that Césaire’s calls for transnational black consciousness was soon eclipsed by Caribbean valuation of creolité.
Ngal, Georges. Aimé Césaire: Un homme à la recherche d’une patrie. Paris: Présence africaine, 1994. 111-117. Print.
Historicizes the moments in Césaire’s life that influenced the development of his poetic and political consciousness. The chapters most significant to this bibliography are “Three: Le Retour au pays natal” and “Four: Les débuts d’une esthétique d’enracinement 1935-1946.”
Chapter Three highlights Césaire’s departure from France by boat to Martinique days after World War II broke out. Ngal describes Césaire’s time teaching at Schoelcher secondary school in Martinique, where his enthusiasm renewed student interest in their studies of Virgil and Sophocles. Chapter Four dissects the ideological tendencies of Césaire’s négritude as expressed in his poetry. Ngal highlights in Césaire’s Notebook the author’s deep mistrust of civilization and its conquering ways. Césaire’s outlook, Ngal argues, is deeply influenced by Leo Frobenius’s ethnographic work on African civilization. Because so much of négritude as an ideology relies on rhetoric, Ngal argues a historical perspective is necessary to get at any truth.
Plasa, Carl. “Doing the Slave Trade in Different Voices: Poetics and Politics in Robert Hayden’s First ‘Middle Passage.’” African American Review 45.4 (2012): 557–573. Jstor. Web. 19 Mar. 2015.
Analyzes the artistic, thematic and intertextual movements in Hayden’s “Middle Passage.” Like many critics before him, Plasa acknowledges the influence of T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland” on Hayden’s innovative poem. He points out that disjointed polyphony, typographical variation and moral disillusion all describe the master works of both Hayden and Eliot. “Doing the Slave Trade in Different Voices” also speculates on the historical narratives that could have informed the composition of “Middle Passage,” especially Hayden’s imagining of the Amistad revolt. Plasa finds evidence to suggest Hayden’s research had been influenced by Muriel Rukeyser’s Willard Gibbs, George Francis Dow’s Slave Ships and Slaving, Stephen Vincent Benêt’s John Brown's Body, and Theodore Canot’s Adventures of an African Slaver.
Plasa’s sharpest reading of “Middle Passage” views it as narration of historical resistance, which makes the poem itself a work of resistance. He states, “‘Middle Passage’ rejects the pyrrhic comfort of a black resistance gained only via the melancholy defiles of suicide (as in section one [of the poem]), and embraces the more sustaining project of a counter-violence aimed squarely at the oppressor” (568). Plasa’s reading complicates previous portrayals (mostly from cultural nationalists) of Hayden as a poet too married to western, ‘white’ literary traditions.
Murphy, Jim. “‘Here Only the Sea Is Real’: Robert Hayden’s Postmodern Passages.” MELUS 27.4 (2002): 107–127. JSTOR. Web. 15 Feb. 2015.
Explores the very complex personality of poet Robert Hayden and investigates Hayden’s self-exploration through verse. Murphy argues that Hayden’s poetry is both an investigation of his personal identity and an interrogation of black cultural identity. In his reading of Hayden’s “Middle Passage,” Murphy argues Hayden is creating black identity in his imagining of this collective legacy. Murphy sees the complexity of Hayden’s verse as a result of the variety of influences Hayden incorporates, including black culture and the modernist poetics of T.S. Eliot. It is noteworthy that Murphy’s reading implicitly views black culture and modernism as separate from one another.
Murphy also covers Hayden’s encounter with the Black Arts Movement in the early 1970s. The movement promoted strong cultural nationalism and Hayden distanced himself from their agenda. Murphy concludes that the broadminded perspective of black identity articulated in Hayden’s poetry remains largely unexplored, and critical attention to his work is a task to be taken up.
Gilroy, Paul. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1993. Print.
Conducts a manifold interrogation of black vernacular culture in relation to ‘modernity’ in the industrialized world, especially the United States. Gilroy pursues more nuanced understandings of cultural production than essentialists and cultural nationalists are willing to recognizes. While he rejects any view of racial essence, Gilroy’s insights reveal that the unique experience of the black diaspora helped forge the extraordinary social indices of black vernacular culture.
The Black Atlantic is the author’s exploration of black culture in white-dominated society, and his insights shed light on ‘modern’ society at large. Gilroy’s foci of analysis include: the significance of musical styles in black cultural production (he argues hip hop has been seriously under-analyzed by essentialists and anti-essentialists alike), W.E.B. DuBois and double consciousness in the black diaspora, Richard Wright and the social construct of ‘Negro-ness,’ and Toni Morrison and the legacy of racial terror. Written in 1993, Gilroy sought for The Black Atlantic to push toward “the politics of a new century in which the central axis of conflict will no longer be the colour line but the challenge of just, sustainable development and the frontiers which will separate the overdeveloped parts of the world (at home and abroad) from the intractable poverty that already surrounds them” (223).
Dayan, Joan. “Paul Gilroy’s Slaves, Ships, and Routes: The Middle Passage as Metaphor.” Research in African Literatures 27.4 (1996): 7–14. Googlescholar. Web. 14 Feb. 2015.
Joan Dayan blasts Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic on several points. First, Dayan argues his portrayal of slavery is nothing more than a metaphor, and his view of the Middle Passage is frozen in the historical past. Drawing on her work in Arizona prisons, Dayan argues that mass incarceration of young blacks and Latinos makes enslavement, if less obvious, still very much a part of contemporary society. Dayan condemns Gilroy for cleanly sidestepping this issue, as well as his analysis of Frederick Douglass, which ignores the structural limitations of Douglass’s freedom after his emancipation. In addition, Dayan critiques Gilroy’s marginalization of Black Atlantic authors in the Caribbean and his unsophisticated treatment of pre-slave trade Africa.
Diedrich, Maria, Henry Louis Gates, and Carl Pedersen, eds. Black Imagination and the Middle Passage. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. iucat.iu.edu. Web. 23 Feb. 2015. W.E.B. Du Bois Institute.
Including the work of 25 scholars and 3 editors, The Black Imagination and the Middle Passage offers a thorough examination of the Middle Passage as cultural memory in the black diaspora (with particular emphasis on the United States). Sections most relevant to this bibliography include “Introductory Remarks,” “The Slave Ship Dance,” “Landings,” “‘The Persistence of Tradition,’” and “The African American Concept of the Fantastic as Middle Passage.”
The editors present two framing ideas in their introductory remarks. The first is that the African American concept of space began in the Middle Passage. The second draws on Wilson Harris’s argument that the Middle Passage memory cannot be down in the ship’s holds where the enslaved is an emasculated victim. The crucial Middle Passage memory, for Harris, is the limbo dance on the ship decks. In “The Slave Ship Dance,” Geneviève Fabre states that, even if slaves could not escape their captors’ cruelty, the dance in some way allowed them to “imaginatively break the chains and defy traders or captains and their crew” (42). It is lamentable that Fabre overlooks Césaire’s monumental poem, which envisioned in 1939: “And the nigger scum is on its feet// the seated nigger scum/ unexpectedly standing/ standing in the hold/…standing on the deck/ standing in the wind/…standing/ and/ free” (107-8). It is also unfortunate that the editors, in their introductory remarks, dismiss Césaire and Senghor for their essentialism with no consideration of their contributions to black consciousness and to the art of poetry.
These essays explore the Middle Passage as a ‘mythic’ memory over an ethnographic one. Much of the art and literature examined here involve an attempt to give voice to ineffable trauma. “Landings” describes how authors like Robert Hayden and Kamau Brathwaite confronted the specter of the Middle Passage through literature in the 1960s and ‘70s. Other essays highlight the way Toni Morrison’s Beloved conjures past trauma as a means to exorcise it.
DeCosta-Willis, Miriam. “Meditations on History: The Middle Passage in the Afro-Hispanic Literary Imagination.” Afro-Hispanic Review 22.1 (2003): 3–12. Web. 26 Feb. 15.
Surveys representations of the Middle Passage in Afro-Latino literature, starting from The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, the African (1789). Following this “paradigmatic text,” DeCosta-Willis points out that Afro-Hispanic writers did not address the theme of the Middle Passage until the late twentieth century (3). By then, the author notes, the Middle Passage as historical event had undergone a process of mythification in black cultural memory.
“Meditations on History” analyzes the Middle Passage as a trope in the work of Nancy Morejon, Perez Sarduy, Carlos Guillermo Wilson, and Manuel Zapata Olivella. DeCosta-Willis argues that these authors revise history by fictionalizing slavery and the Middle Passage.
Watson, Sonja Stephenson. “Changó, El Gran Putas: Contemporary Afro-Hispanic Historical Novel.” Afro-Hispanic Review 25.1 (2006): 67–85. Web. 8 Mar. 2015.
Investigates the Afro-Hispanic historical novel (AHHN) with a reading of Manuel Zapata Olivella's Changó, El Gran Putas (1983). Watson reflects on the marginalized presence of Afro-Latinos in Spanish American literature, noting that Afro-Latinos had previously been the object of representation by white or mestizo authors. Watson notes that the Afro-Hispanic historical novel represents a change to Afro-Latinos representing themselves in literature, which she sees as an act of resistance as authors revise the history from which they have been marginalized. Watson attributes this growth in black consciousness (which she dates to the 1960s and ‘70s) to the inspiring “black brothers and sisters in the United States during the socio-political activism of the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements” (67). She gives no mention, however, to C.L.R. James, Eric Williams, Aimé Césaire, Derek Walcott, Nancy Morejón or Wilson Harris.
Watson describes Olivella’s novel as a work of ‘afro-realism,’ an aesthetic she identifies (after Quince Duncan) by the following characteristics: rejection of Eurocentrism, a revival of African symbolic memory based on research, a reaffirmation of ancestral community, and a declaration of an African identity from an insider’s perspective.
3. Confronting the Past
Tibbles, Anthony. “Facing Slavery’s Past: The Bicentenary of the Abolition of the British Slave Trade.” Slavery & Abolition 29.2 (2008): 293–303. Taylor and Francis+NEJM. Web. 26 Apr. 2015.
Examines the historical importance of Britain’s participation in the slave trade, in the context of the Bicentennial of Britain’s abolition of the trade. As activities and events mark this important history, Tibbles examines factors behind the reluctance of many to confront this uncomfortable history. Item not seen.
MacGonagle, Elizabeth and Kim Warren. “‘How Much for Kunta Kinte?!’ Sites for Memory and Diasporan Encounters in West Africa.” Ed. Beek, W. E. A. van, and A. M Schmidt. African Hosts and Their Guests Cultural Dynamics of Tourism. Oxford: James Currey, 2012. Open WorldCat. Web. 26 Apr. 2015.
Investigates various aspects of African American heritage tourism to sites in West Africa related to the slave trade. The authors show this return pilgrimage is an extremely emotional experience for African Americans searching for the severed roots of their family trees. Aspects of these trips can be disappointing, though, since the historic sites are not always what they expect and tourists are not often received by Africans as they had imagined.
MacGonagle and Warren show Africans feel far less impacted by the history of the slave trade as African Americans. Africans often receive African Americans as foreigners rather than long-lost relatives, and global economic inequalities can be a source of resentment between the two groups. African governments and locals do not mind taking advantage of African Americans yearning to reconstruct their pasts, although tour guides tend to be more sensitive to the ‘return’ experience.
An important aspect for this bibliography is when MacGonagle and Warren explore how African Americans are often disappointed by DNA testing, which often cannot pinpoint one’s lineage to a distinct region or ethnic group in Africa. This response from African Americans reflects the value they place on ‘pure’ and direct links to their African rather than the New World creolité that Eduard Glissant theorizes.
Halloran, Vivian Nun. Exhibiting Slavery : The Caribbean Postmodern Novel as Museum. Charlottesville : University of Virginia Press, 2009. Print.
With readings of several postmodern Caribbean novels, Halloran argues literature can function as a virtual museum for readers to explore the legacy of slavery. The author interprets images and objects in these novels as artifacts curated by the authors. The most relevant aspect for my project is Halloran’s analysis of UNESCO World Heritage sites such as Elmina Castle in Ghana. Halloran questions the motivations behind Ghana’s decision to promote heritage tourism for African Americans.
Hartman, Saidiya V. Lose Your Mother : A Journey along the Atlantic Slave Route. New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007. Print.
Hartman interrogates the resonance of slavery in contemporary society by narrating her travels to West Africa. Hartman’s memoir gives an intimate portrait of slavery’s legacy by tracing the slave route in reverse. She personalize the rupture that the slave trade effected on African Americans by recognizing the irretrievability of her genealogical links to Africa. Visiting Elmina Castle, Hartman lends a critical eye on the industry of Ghana’s heritage tourism. Item not seen.
Mbembé, Achille. “African Modes of Self-Writing.” Identity, Culture and Politics 2.2 (2002): 239–73. GoogleScholar. Web. 28 May 2014.
Critiques how African authors have represented the continent. The most relevant aspect for this bibliography is Mbembe’s argument that the memories of slavery, colonization and apartheid create a “cult of victimization” in the African consciousness (5). These memories affect the present when, as Mbembe claims, it creates the idea that “Africa is not responsible for the catastrophes that are befalling it.”
Nganang, Patrice. 2007. Manifeste d’une nouvelle littérature africaine: Pour une littérature préemptive. Paris, France: Homnispheres.
Advances Mbembe’s critique by examining different types of African writing that dwells on past trauma, and thereby perpetuates a paradigm of victimhood. Nganang’s main argument calls for preemptive writing to prevent future catastrophes rather than obsessing on past disasters.
———. “Necessary Doubt.” African Writing Online 7, (July 25, 2008), Web. 28 Apr. 2014).
This speech delivered in Kigali, Rwanda presents the central argument of Manifeste d’une nouvelle littérature africaine for an English-speaking audience. Again building on Mbembe’s thesis, Nganang stresses that writing that dwells on past trauma inflicted by foreigners was no longer possible after the Rwandan genocide. The continent, he argues, must hold itself accountable and determine its future by preempting future violence. The new African writing he envisions would contribute to that sea change.
U.S. News & World Report Travel. “Anse Cafard Slave Memorial.” U.S. News & World Report Travel n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2015.
Ranks Anse Cafard Slave Memorial as the top place to visit in Martinique, and summarizes the history of the disaster that inspired the memorial. This short article describes what tourists will find at Anse Cafard and how long they should plan to spend (a half-day).
Shadid, Salim. “Uncommon Attraction: Anse Cafard Slave Memorial, Martinique.” Uncommon Caribbean 11 Nov. 2010. Web. 24 Apr. 2015.
Describes the history of the slave ship that sunk in 1830, and the inspiration to construct a memorial for the 150th anniversary of the emancipation of slaves in the French West Indies. Shadid details how the 20, eight-foot tall effigies are organized in a triangle to allude to the triangular slave trade, and the statues lean at 110 degrees to point at the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa. The author promises prospective tourists an extremely moving experience.
Tamuno, Tekena N. Oil Wars in the Niger Delta 1849-2009. Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria: Stirling-Horden Publishers Ltd, 2011. Print.
Tamuno’s history focuses mainly on the violent economics of petroleum extraction in the Niger Delta, an issue that has shaped and continues to shape life in Nigeria. The aspect of Oil Wars relevant to this bibliography is the historical precedents Tamuno relies on for his study. Nigeria’s oil economy involves internal exploitation of minority ethnicities in Nigeria, with multinational corporations (based in Britain, Holland, the US, France and Italy) running the extraction process (and reaping 40% of the profits). For Tamuno, this dynamic evokes an earlier function of international capitalism that affected the Niger Delta. The Niger Delta, he reminds readers, is part of what was once the notorious ‘Slave Coast.’ The author frames his analysis of Nigeria’s petroleum wars in the historical legacy of “[t]he inhuman trade in slaves featured largely in the ancient economy of the communities along the Bights of Benin and Biafra (later Bonny)” (1).
Soyinka, Wole. 2012. Of Africa. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Print.
Contemplates the significance of the landmass pejoratively labeled the ‘Dark Continent.’ As he sets out to explore Africa’s past and present in an international context, Soyinka argues: “All claims that Africa has been explored are as premature as news of her imminent demise. A truly illuminating exploration of Africa has yet to take place” (xiii).
Part I (Chapters 1-4) is most significant to this bibliography, which contains several images of historical sites of the West African slave trade. Descriptions of neglected slave forts on the West African coast, for example, trigger the author’s reflections on the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the trans-Sahara slave trade and present-day trafficking of slave labor. Soyinka argues that if the continent’s past does not cause present despots and warlords reason to pause and reflect, “then Africa has ceased to matter” (66).