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Traces and Memories of Slavery in the Atlantic World (University of Montpellier)

December 1, 2016 - December 2, 2016

Traces and Memories of Slavery in the Atlantic World
University of Montpellier, France, 1-2 December, 2016
Keynote Speakers
Ana Lucia Araujo (Howard University)
Christine Chivallon (Research Director, CNRS)
In Cultural Trauma: Slavery and the Formation of African American Identity (2001),  Ron Eyerman explores the formation of African American identity through the cultural trauma of slavery. While trauma directly affected individuals who experienced slavery, Eyerman argues that, as a cultural process, trauma is “mediated through various forms of representation and linked to the reformation of collective identity and the reworking of collective memory”. This international conference seeks to examine the foundation, the mechanisms and the scope of these memorial processes. It endeavors to explore a reality of slavery that rests on human memory, on a (re)constructed memory of individual, collective or family trajectories and migrations transmitted from generation to generation.
The Traces and Memories of Slavery in the Atlantic World conference sets out to interrogate how descendants reconstruct the history of their ancestors when transatlantic slavery is one of the variables of the memorial process. The conference also aims at examining the extent to which, by a process of collectivization of personal or family memories and (hi)stories, social actors of the present not only partake in generating and consolidating group identities but also how they foster “the emergence of the memory of slavery in public space.” In addition to assessing the cultural and symbolic redistribution which are enabled by the commemoration, the museification and the
patrimonialization of the memory of slavery, this conference aims at probing the constraints which determine the inscription of this memory in the public sphere and the extent to which social demand, especially in the context of the obligation of remembrance, influences the production of historical knowledge and sometimes leads to conflicts of memory.
As Ira Berlin has argued, can it be contended that although “[h]istory and memory both speak to the subject of slavery […] they speak in different tongues”? In the traumatic and post-traumatic context of slavery, conflicting memories of interracial relationships, for instance, call for a specific attention: can the mechanisms of memorial (re)construction, whether it be from a psychological or historical point of view, claim or aim to be neutral? It will prove interesting to study the historical and strategic importance of places like Gorée – their symbolic and affective charge, as well as their memorial function. In the same vein, instances of what Ana Lucia Araujo refers to as “memory replacement”, whereby “a local population appropriates an existing building or site and assigns to it
stories of the Atlantic slave trade and slavery as if it was an actual heritage site” will also be worth considering.

The organizing committee of this international and interdisciplinary conference welcomes papers in the form of case studies, analyses aimed at identifying general trends or comparative approaches. The geographic scope of the conference – the Atlantic space – is purposefully broad, as the issue of memorial modernity transcends individuals, race, nations, space and time. As memory of facts dating back to several generations can only be transmitted, reconstructed and inevitably fragmentary in nature, the palimpsestic dimension of the memorial process will be given particular attention.

For further information contact traces2016@gmail.com


December 1, 2016
December 2, 2016
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