American Studies Research Seminar | The Antislavery Usable Past: Protest Memory and the Movement Against Contemporary Slavery
When: 28 February 2017, 18:00 – 19:30
Where: K6.63 King’s Building, Strand, King’s College London, WC2R 2LS
How: All welcome; no need to book.
Bio: Zoe Trodd is a Professor in the Department of American and Canadian Studies at the University of Nottingham, co-director of the Centre for Research in Race and Rights, and director of the Research Priority Area in Rights and Justice. She received her PhD from Harvard University and has taught at Harvard and Columbia University. She researches social justice movements, especially antislavery, and her books include American Protest Literature (2006), To Plead Our Own Cause (2008), Modern Slavery (2009), The Tribunal (2012), Civil War America (2012), and Picturing Frederick Douglass (2015). She has addressed the European Parliament about its antislavery policy, and works with antislavery NGOs on their campaigns, especially their use of slaves’ testimonies and their visual culture.
Paper title: The Antislavery Usable Past: Protest Memory and the Movement Against Contemporary Slavery
Paper description: There are an estimated 46 million slaves alive today, including in the United States, the UK and Europe—more than at any point in human history. Over the past 20 years, a growing antislavery movement has achieved some successes, including new legislation and increased public awareness. But it is repeating mistakes of the past and often starts from scratch, rather than learning from earlier antislavery successes, failures, experiments and strategies. After laying out the facts, figures and definitions for contemporary global slavery, Zoe Trodd will examine this contemporary antislavery movement. What might an antislavery usable past look like? What strategies, literary devices, images and opinion-building activities were useful to earlier antislavery generations, and how might they be useful for contemporary abolitionists in adapted form? Can we move beyond merely nostalgic celebrations of past antislavery victories to instead apply lessons from the abolitionist past? In particular, she will examine the visual culture of the contemporary antislavery movement, which tends to adapt 18th- and 19th-century abolitionist imagery for its campaigns. Though this repeats some of the same limitations of dehumanization and sensationalism as dominated much of the original antislavery movement’s visual culture, some artists have offered a more empowering aesthetic and a protest memory.
The King’s American Studies Research Group
King’s College London
London, WC2R 2LS