CANCELLED: Men at Work: Masculinities, Honor, and Political Ideologies in the Black Atlantic
In recent years, cultural and social historians of Africa and Africans in the Atlantic world have drawn our attention to the dynamic ways in which those subject to the violence of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and enslavement crafted multiple, dynamic subjectivities in resistance to the eminent threat of social death. Moving from a culturalist approach to African identities in the Americas derived from the anthropological thinking of Herskovits and his contemporaries, these newer studies transcend questions of “retention” to instead interrogate the discourses and practices through which terms of identity came to carry charged political, social, and cultural meanings on either side of the Atlantic. This movement away from the presumption of identity as a static object or straightforward claim of provenance not only complicates our understanding of the relationship between political change and practice in Africa to the cultural and social lives of Africans in the Americas, but it also opens inquiry into the gendered and sexualized textures of Black life in the Atlantic world. Beginning with the assumption that the work of making and unmaking gendered Black subjectivities was central to projects of social life and resistance in the Atlantic world, in this panel, we seek to contribute to these emerging trends in the social and cultural histories of Africans in the Atlantic world. Locating concepts of honor at the center of our approach to Black masculinities, we interrogate the ways in which those who most overtly challenged the social order of slavery employed particular gendered notions in their efforts to craft communities. Masculinities are essential to understanding the ways in which communities negotiated and mediated violence and constructed their own discourses of honor. Spanning two continents and three centuries and drawing from diverse ethnographic, archival, oral, and performative sources, our papers argue that the construction and performance of masculine identities and their relationship to practices of violence and notions of honor were critical tools of resistance for Africans in the Atlantic world.