Global Slavery – Representation & Redress

Global Interactions First Annual Event 2015

PROGRAM | Global Slavery and the Exhibitionary Impulse

June 11 2015  | 11:00 – 17:00 hrs
June 12 2015  | 10:00 – 17:00 hrs
Research Center for Material Culture
Steenstraat 1
Leiden The Netherlands

11 JUNE 2015

11:00 | Introduction | Manon van der Heijden (Professor of History, Global lnteractions Coordinator, Leiden)

11:15 – 13:30 Panel 1 | Genealogies of enslavement

The concept of slavery has taken on various definitions and articulations from antiquity to the present. At certain junctures, slavery has existed as part of a normalized hierarchical social order, or an extreme outcome of poverty, war or debt; so in one sense, slavery is an institution that radicalizes (lingustic, ethnic, socioeconomic, etc.) difference as a legal and civil condition. One could argue however, that this institution of Othering attained its most extreme expression in the inauguration of  ‘modernity’ with its so-called ‘discoveries’ and the emergence of the planation and racial slavery in the New World.  Subsequently, we witnessed the convergence of a set of ideas – Darwinian evolution, rational thought, race as a biological and genetic characteristic – that then gave rise to a congealing of ideas about the figure of the human. In addition to economic, geopolitical, religious, ideological and material conditions of the time, what were the philosophical debates of what it meant to be human and free (e.g., theocentric, humanist, political, biological, etc.) that might help us understand how the enslavement of certain peoples (and not others) became thinkable at this time? How and why did race and slavery, two concepts that were largely unrelated previously, become inexorably tied in the four centuries of Atlantic Slave trade?

Chair: Wayne Modest (Director of Research Center for Material Culture)
– Anthony Bogues (Asa Messer Professor of Humanities and Critical Theory and Director for the Center for Slavery and Justice, Brown University)
– Agnes Lugo-Ortiz (Associate Professor of Latin-American Literature, University of Chicago)
– Dirk J. Tang (Author and Curator)
– Annemarie De Wildt (Curator, Amsterdam Museum)
Discussant: Peter Pels (Professor of Anthropology of Africa, CA-DS, Leiden)

13:30 – 14:15 | LUNCH BREAK

14:45 – 17:00pm | Panel 2 | Contested definitions and multiple slaveries: Is transatlantic slavery exceptional?

A growing interest in slavery as a global practice—i.e., a practice that has existed in innumerable societies throughout world history, including the present-day—has led to renewed debates about the precise definition of slavery, with far-reaching repercussions for the way slavery in the Atlantic world is researched and remembered, including how it is represented in museums. As activist organizations and scholars of various forms of servitude, debt bondage, pawnship and human trafficking adopt and employ the language of slavery to draw attention to practices of extreme exploitation around the world, the specific nature of Atlantic slavery is becoming increasingly relativized. Indeed, Atlantic slavery is more and more being portrayed as nothing new, as simply one of “multiple slaveries.” But how might terms such as ‘international slavery’ or notions of colonial slavery as a world system serve or limit our abilities to address the specificities of trans-Atlantic slavery and its representation?  This panel will examine the contested definitions of slavery in both the Atlantic and global contexts, and the extent to which scholars can speak of an “exceptionalist” Atlantic slavery.

Chair: Karwan Fatah-Black (Lecturer in History, Leiden)
-Damian Pargas (Lecturer in History, Leiden University)
-Jean Allain (Professor of Law, Queen’s University, Belfast)
-Paul Tichmann (Curator, Slave Lodge – IZICO Museums, South Africa)
Discussant: Petra Sijpesteijn (Professor of Arabic, LIAS, Leiden)

17:00 – 18:30  | RECEPTION

12 JUNE 2015

10:00-12:30 | Panel 3: Reforming the archive: imagination, emotion and humanizing slavery pasts

What is the role of affect and imagination in colonial and state archives? Achille Mbembe (2002) has argued that such archives become a kind of talisman under state efforts to ‘civilize’ the ways in which the archive might be consumed. The colonial or state museum for instance, as one example of this civilizing project, affords a feeling of protection to those who carry (or consume) it: it softens the anger, shame, guilt and resentment (through the ideal of collective and communal ownership) and becomes a substitution for the duty of repentance, justice and reparation (through the alchemy of commemoration). How might thoughtful attention to imagination, affect and the body  help us to refigure archival and collections work as a radically different kind of project – one that directly contends with the losses, traumas, wounds and debts that inhabit histories of slavery and dispossession? Exploring the idea that the archive constitutes a space of dreams, imagination and emotional engagement (Steedman 1998, Nuttall 2002), what are the possibilities for calling upon these reservoirs in the rebuilding of collective social memory, redistribution of aspiration, and projects of redress and reconciliation?  In the end how can the archive be re-imaged as we engage in this kind of labor?

Moderator: Wayne Modest (Director of Research Center for Material Culture)
– Anette Hofmann (Independent Scholar and Curator)
– Dienke Hondius (Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary History, Vrije University Amsterdam)
– Guno Jones (Lecturer, SIT Study Abroad, Amsterdam)
Discussant:  Sanjukta Sunderason (Lecturer in Modern South Asian Studies, Leiden)

12:30  | LUNCH BREAK (KITLV Annual Meeting begins)

14:10 – 17:00 | Panel 4: Slavery legacies and the work of state, public, and popular histories **in concert with the KITLV Annual Meeting**

Bringing together the earlier discussions, this panel will explore the problematics of slave legacies and their representation as a global history. Situating slavery pasts as a global history underscores the particular difficulty of representing a past atrocity whereby one group was systematically exploited and dehumanized by another (and arguably most egregiously by the hydra-headed Goliath of the Colonial world). Within such devastating entanglement, many histories and experiences were neither similar nor shared; one person or group’s prosperity was directly tied to another’s calamity. When representing this connected past, how then, can one adequately address this chasm? While multivocality (presenting multiple histories and perspectives) has become increasingly embraced in museum work and public history, the matter of whether equity or diversity in representation sufficiently addresses or articulates the gross inequities in power, freedom and experience of the past requires critical attention. In particular, the global history of slavery abolition opens up the issue of atonement (apology and redress) and how states should deal with a past moral failure and its ongoing legacy and repercussions for a certain group of people. In what ways do slavery museums and exhibits, popular histories, and anti-slavery movements differently attend to such work and to what effect? How do narrative frames such as ‘the national’, ‘the colonial’, or ‘the black experience’ that inflect these public platforms, engage but also limit ideas of responsibility, recognition, representation and experience? Finally, what are the most promising concepts or frameworks that might help us imagine new modes of representation that can confront and address these difficult and complex histories?

Chair and Moderator: Markus Balkenhol (Postdoc, Meertens Institute)
Keynote: Ana Lucia Araujo (Professor of History, Howard University)
– Nancy Bercaw (Curator, Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History & Culture)
– Artwell Cain (Scholar, Institute of Cultural Heritage & Knowledge)
– Alex van Stipriaan (Professor of Caribbean History, Erasmus University, Rotterdam)

Panel Discussion – Each panel member will be asked to give a five minute presentation setting out their own work, some of limitations of the work that they do. Panelist should suggest one critical question that they grapple with for discussion.


– Paul Tichmann (Curator, Slave Lodge – IZICO Museums, South Africa)
– Eveline Sint Nicolaas (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)
– Bertrand Guillet (Directeur of Château des ducs de Bretagne, Nantes)
– Richard Benjamin (International Slavery Museum, Liverpool)
– Annemarie De Wildt (Amsterdam Museum)
– Anna-Karina Caudevilla (International Association of the Shackles of Memory)

Discussion and Closing Remarks: Nancy Jouwe (KITLV)



One comment on “PROGRAM | Global Slavery and the Exhibitionary Impulse

  1. Pingback: June 11-12, 2015 | Global Slavery and the Exhibitionary Impulse | Global Slavery Represent/Redress

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