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Legacies of the Slave Past in the Post-Slave Present
October 1, 2015 - October 2, 2015
The Advanced Research Collaborative (ARC) and the Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University present a two-day event: Legacies of the Slave Past in the Post-Slave Present. Professor Catherine Hall (University College London) will speak at 4:30 on Thursday October 1st in the Skylight Room. Events on Friday, October 2nd will take place at the Held Auditorium, Barnard College.
Several years ago, Catherine Hall, Nick Draper, and Keith McClelland launched a project at University College, London, on the “Legacies of British Slave Ownership.” The project sought to document the impact of slave ownership on the formation of modern Britain. Phase one involved building a searchable, publicly accessible, database containing the identity of all slave-owners in the British Caribbean, Mauritius, and the Cape at the time of slave abolition in 1833. The recently published book, Legacies of British Slave-Ownership: Colonial Slavery and the Formation of Victorian Britain (2014), is a collaborative work based on this phase. In phase two the researchers are now inquiring into the structure and significance of slave ownership in the British Caribbean between 1763 and 1833.
This is a timely and enormously instructive research project, with wide implications for rethinking the present of past slaving and slave societies. It is timely inasmuch as it converges with the re-emergence of serious scholarly and public discussion (in the Caribbean, Brazil, and the United States) about the long aftermaths of New World slavery in terms of the question of the repair of that historical injustice. It is instructive partly because it demonstrates the possibility of detailing the scale of value placed on slaves at the time of abolition, but also because, in excavating the pathways of capitalist financial interests in slavery (both state and private) it points to possible ways of articulating a contemporary counter-veiling reparatory claim—a material claim about justice for the descendants of the enslaved.