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In Memoriam

Joseph C. Miller, University of Virginia

Introduction

Contemporary Legacies of the Black Atlantic

Carolyn Jones Medine and Lucienne Loh

Abstract

The “Introduction” sets out the origin of the issue, its themes, and its strategy of pairing American and British scholars. It introduces the themes of the essays on literature, performance—particularly in New Orleans—and heritage and tourism. Suggesting that these essays take seriously Paul Gilroy’s “The Black Atlantic,” we also argue that we are extending his argument to look at new themes and forms of cultural production.

“Old Fellows”

Age, Identity, and Solidarity in Slave Communities of the Antebellum South

David Doddington

Abstract

The last few decades have seen scholars successfully challenge the idea that enslaved men in the US South were emasculated by slavery, proving that despite their oppression, enslaved men could craft a gendered sense of self. Much work on the topic has focused on public demonstrations of strength and virility, on resistance, or on men’s activities as husbands and fathers, providers and protectors. However, at times, this work has treated manhood and male identity as static, and has not considered change over the course of a lifespan. As enslaved men grew older, the performances expected of them and the possibilities afforded them could shift, and this shift was not inevitably perceived as positive or accepted without strife. While much existing work on conditions of life for elderly enslaved people has stressed the solidarity and assistance other members of the community extended to them, support was not always offered, nor was it always desired. In this article, I explore perceptions of change contemporaries associated with age and consider how this impacted on the lives of enslaved men in slave communities of the antebellum US South.

The Absence of Freedom

Debt, Bondage and Desire among Pakistani Brick Kiln Workers

Antonio De Lauri

Central and South Asian brick kilns have long attracted the attention of both humanitarian agencies and scholars as sites of slavery-like forms of labor exploitation. They represent both an important case study for investigating the systems of dependence and debt-relationships that characterize Southern Asian capitalism, and a big challenge to creating sustainable, international standards for human labor. One aspect largely overlooked in the literature concerns the ideas of freedom that emerge in situations of bondage. Based on ethnographic research conducted in brick kilns in the areas of Gujrat, Islamabad and Rawalpindi in 2015 and 2016, my analysis focuses on workers’ narratives and their perceptions of freedom and its absence.

Freedom from Below

Some Introductory Thoughts

Alice Bellagamba

Alice Bellagamba

This study examines the historical linkages that developed between experiences of enslavement, the legacies of slavery, and ideas of freedom before and after abolition in the early twentieth century in an area of southern Senegal known today as the Kolda region. In the Fulfulde language, spoken by the majority of the population, there are several terms and expressions to talk about freedom. The first is ndimaaku, which people tend to equate with nobility and dignity. This is the freedom of the olden days of slavery, when the capacities and qualities of the male or female freeborn stood in stark contrast to those of the slave, and being free meant not having been a slave in the first place. The second term is heɓtaare, i.e., freedom in the sense of tranquility, economic well-being, and a general ease in life and social relations. The expression jeyaal-hoore mun conveys a sense of independence, self-mastery and autonomy, while heɓtugol hoore mun literally means to retrieve one’s head, the center of individual thought and capacity for independent action. Politically, heɓtugol hoore mun stands for the end of colonial rule and the achievement of national independence. Socially, it refers to the emancipation of subordinated groups, like the youth and women, and it describes slaves who freed themselves from their masters. Drawing from archival sources and oral history, this essay attempts to reconstruct the discursive reconfigurations of local ideas of freedom within the context of the political and social changes that affected the Kolda region in the late nineteenth century, the early colonial period, and the years before decolonization. Each historical period had its own actors, dynamics and complexities in which slavery and then legacies of slavery played a role in the definition of freedom and the entitlement of people to its benefits. As demonstrated here, however, liberation paved the way for other forms of subjugation.