Indigenous Slavery from Out on the Edge

Friday, January 5, 2018: 4:30 PM
Virginia Suite B (Marriott Wardman Park)
Nancy E. van Deusen, Queen's University
Recent ethnographic studies on Indian slavery in the western hemisphere illuminate the continental, historic and cultural bases within which Indian slavery occurred – more commonplace and ubiquitous than previously thought. Only rarely do we learn what happened to deracinated slaves upon arrival in their places of destination. In archival inscriptions they appear as fragmented “outliers” – Narragansetts in Bermuda, Apaches in Cuba, or Chorotegas in Lima, which we have generally ignored because they do not “fit” with our arguments about place and culture and colonialism. In this paper, I argue that by looking from the so-called peripheries of empire back to the centers of violence, displacement and economy we gain a fresh perspective on the ubiquity and centeredness of Indian slavery in the western hemisphere. From the “edge” we can complement our “local” knowledge of Indian slavery and better integrate it within our understanding of inter-imperial and global trade networks and experiences. Evidence of diasporic and trans-imperial Indian slaves on ship logs and in court cases and visual texts is rare. But tracing these tales of mobility and cultural placement contribute greatly to our understanding of the interconnectedness and ethnogenesis of the early modern world.
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