This essay seeks to understand the complexity of a post-Holocaust discourse of comparative suffering in law and literature, focusing on the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade. The essay traces a history of post-1945 discourse about the Holocaust, as the place of Jewish suffering under the Nazis swerves between comparability and incomparability, ineffability and analogy, in legal and literary representations. Focusing on M. NourbeSe Philip’s poetry in her work Zong!, which features an entanglement between the articulative capacity of Holocaust analogies for articulating the suffering of the transatlantic slave trade and the simultaneous tendency for such comparisons to occlude the very subject that such a comparison seeks to articulate, the argument identifies the tensions that inevitably emerge out of a discourse of comparative memory. Moving outside of Zong!, the essay shows how this problem is embedded, with significant impact on the history and the future of the legal recognition of suffering produced by the transatlantic slave trade, opening up new lines of inquiry about the efficacy, and the consequences, of comparison on the terrain of post-Holocaust human rights.

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