RoundtableMultiSession Politics of Memory: Making Slavery Visible in the Public Space, Part 1: Transnational Public Memory of Slavery and the Atlantic Slave Trade

AHA Session 36
Thursday, January 6, 2011: 3:00 PM-5:00 PM
Room 310 (Hynes Convention Center)
Ana Lucia Araujo, Howard University
Suzanne Blier, Harvard University , Martin Klein, University of Toronto , Sandra Richards, Northwestern University and Kirk Savage, University of Pittsburgh

Session Abstract

This opening roundtable aims to introduce the discussion about the relatively recent phenomenon of emergence of the public memory of slavery and the Atlantic slave trade, part of larger wave of memorialization, characterized by an increasing interest in all things related to the past. Its point of departure is the assumption that the public memory of slavery and the Atlantic slave trade is now a transnational phenomenon encompassing Europe, Africa, and Latin America. The memorialization of slavery is a double-folded phenomenon. On the one hand, it is characterized by the claims for recognition of social actors who were historically excluded from the Western societies because of the status of their ancestors (enslaved or colonized). On the other hand, it is marked by the development of commemoration activities, museums, monuments, festivals, holidays, and public demands of apologies and financial and/or memorial reparations. This roundtable gathers four prominent scholars working on different aspects of the memorialization of slavery in North America, South America, and Western Europe. Based on specific examples taken from their research works in different contexts such as the United States, England, West Africa, Caribbean and Brazil, the participants will discuss the emergence of the public memory of slavery in the national and transnational arenas. They will examine the different aspects that characterized the presence and/or the absence of slavery and the Atlantic slave trade in the public spaces. By considering the problems involved in the appropriation of the public sphere by different social actors aiming at highlighting conflicting, and contested memories of national pasts, the participants will discuss how the slave past has been brought to the present through monuments, museums, commemorations, and public speeches.