Mapping the Fugitive Nation: Public Memories of Resistance and Maroonage in Twenty-First-Century Angola and Brazil

Saturday, January 8, 2011: 9:20 AM
Room 310 (Hynes Convention Center)
Jessica Krug , University of Wisconsin-Madison
Angola and Brazil are linked through a multi-century history of slavery. This paper seeks to understand the ways in which the legacy of resistance to slavery functions within each of these societies. Government-sanctioned narratives of Angolan nationalism credit assimilados—or the privileged elites under the colonial regime—and mulattos in 1950s Luanda with forging the beginnings of the nation. This kind of urban elitism, however, denies the long-standing realities of pluri-ethnic resistance in places like Kisama, where for four centuries rural Angolans fled from and fought against enslavement. With much of the land within Kisama now designated a national park where cultivation and hunting are severely regulated, residents confront the paradox of having a rhetorically militant government deny their role in forging the Angolan nation. Thus, those who resisted the Portuguese are—in some senses, literally—written off of the Angolan map. In Brazil, while lusotropicalist and more updated, tourist-oriented visions of the nation may emphasize the cultural contributions of the Black-majority northeast, the south-center is perceived as the political and economic bedrock of the state. The Amazon, meanwhile, is represented as the zone of indigenous people and wildlife. Since the 1988 constitution, Black rural communities—including those in the Baixo Amazonas—have striven to gain official recognition from the state as quilombo societies (maroons) in order to secure collective titles to their land. By focusing on quilombo communities in the Baixo Amazonas, and asking how their struggles within and against the Brazilian state intersect with their invisibility within national narratives, I will forge a strong comparative case for Kisama, Angola. In interrogating how the marginal and the maroon are selectively included and erased from national narratives, I hope to illuminate one aspect of the complexity of public memories of slavery in the Black Atlantic.