Almost two decades ago Saidiya Hartman asked how we can mourn an event that has not yet come to an end.1 That question, of how to approach the horror of enslavement through a present in which the past lives on, echoes in Stephanie E. Smallwood’s meditation, “The Politics of the Archive and History’s Accountability to the Enslaved.” Smallwood reflects on her own journey in writing Saltwater Slavery: A Middle Passage from Africa to American Diaspora: from frustration at the silences of the archive of slavery—the unknowability of the internal experience of enslavement—to a recognition that in fact historical research and writing produce the archive. In approaching the production of archives in a new way, Smallwood explores the possibility of “counterhistories” that could be accountable to the enslaved, doing the work in the present of remembering the past. She questions what it means to read the archive “against the...
Archives of the Dispossessed: Mourning, Memory, and Metahistory
ariela j. gross is John B. and Alice R. Sharp Professor of Law and History at the University of Southern California; codirector of the USC Center for Law, History, and Culture; and author of Becoming Free, Becoming Black: Race, Freedom, and Law in Cuba, Virginia, and Louisiana, with Alejandro de la Fuente (2020). Her book What Blood Won’t Tell: A History of Race on Trial in America (2008) was cowinner of the James Willard Hurst Prize from the Law and Society Association; winner of the Lillian Smith Award for the best book on the US South and the struggle for racial justice; the American Political Science Association’s Best Book on Race, Ethnicity, and Politics; and a Choice Outstanding Academic Title. She is also author of Double Character: Slavery and Mastery in the Antebellum Southern Courtroom (2000).
Ariela J. Gross; Archives of the Dispossessed: Mourning, Memory, and Metahistory. English Language Notes 1 April 2021; 59 (1): 219–221. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00138282-8815093
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