Postslavery Lives around the Caribbean: Social Control, Representation, and the Possibilities of Narration

AHA Session 68
Conference on Latin American History 14
Friday, January 5, 2018: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Virginia Suite A (Marriott Wardman Park, Lobby Level)
Anne Eller, Yale University
The Audience

Session Abstract

This session responds to the 2018 conference theme of "Race, Ethnicity, and Nationalism in Global Perspective” by looking at how the lives of formerly enslaved people in Haiti, Santo Domingo and Jamaica can be represented through the imperial, and post-colonial documentary and legal regimes that sought to define and control them. Each paper will present histories that lie at the intersection of nationalism and the racialization of black and formerly enslaved people that can speak to the ways in which formerly enslaved people claimed their personhood. We will engage the histories of and documentation generated by and around repressive institutions, such as the military, the asylum, and legal codification, in order to talk about the possibilities of narration through the actions, relationality and testimony of the formerly enslaved. Moving away from debates about whether the aspirations tied to juridical freedom ever transcended the forces of renewed subjugation, the panelists will question how formerly enslaved people and their descendants conceptualized, participated in, narrated and reshaped the administrative bureaucracies that asserted social control in new and renewed forms after the abolition of chattel slavery. Christienna D. Fryar will engage Ann Pratt’s 1860 narrative Seven Months in the Kingston Lunatic Asylum, and What I saw There, in order to look at the testimony of black subjects and the politics of representation within the imperial bureaucracy of post-emancipation Jamaica. Winter Rae Schneider will work from a historical ethnography of Haiti’s early bureaucracy, paying attention to the practice and performance of legality by rural Haitians under the new state and changing French imperial, legal, conceptions of personhood. Andrew J. Walker will look at military recruits of color in unification-era Santo Domingo through their legal lives and documentation of their acquisition of property in order to talk about mobility and the restructuring of social hierarchies in Haitian Santo Domingo. Through an exploration of the alternative dimensions of governance in the Caribbean after slavery, this session will pay close attention to the trajectories of black lives within the wider structures of imperial control and post-colonial state formation.
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