Images of Slavery and the Holocaust

Friday, January 4, 2013: 8:50 AM
Roosevelt Ballroom IV (Roosevelt New Orleans)
Ana Lucia Araujo, Howard University
This paper examines three sets of images (following similar patterns of representation) depicting the deportation of Africans to the Americas during the era of the Atlantic slave trade. The first set of images shows the displacement of captives, who walk in caravans from the interior of West Africa to the coastal areas. In these iconic images enslaved men and women are usually naked, curved, and enchained. Deprived of marks characterizing them as unique individuals, very often they are presented in the same position. Usually set in lines they are presented as part of a jumbled crowd. The following set of images shows the second stage of dehumanization, when enslaved men, women, and children are confined in coastal warehouses. Separated from their kin groups, their bodies are inspected, abused, and branded. Finally, the paper explores a third set of images representing the deportation to the Americas or the Middle Passage. These images show naked men, women, and children shackled by the neck, wrists, and ankles, packed in the holds of slave ships. By exploring Michael Rothberg’s idea of multidirectional memory—as “the dynamic transfers that take place between diverse places and times during the act of remembrance” (Rothberg 2010: 11) —this paper seeks to understand how the images of these three stages of the Atlantic slave trade have inspired recent initiatives (including monuments, memorials, and museum exhibitions) aiming at commemorating the victims of the Atlantic slave trade. The paper explores the ways these images have been appropriated, transformed, recycled, and presented in the public space, and how they are in dialogue with the memorialization of other atrocities, in particular images of deportation and concentrationary experiences during the Holocaust.