This book discussion essay addresses critical questions concerning historical methodologies when working with the archives of Atlantic-world slavery. Thinking with Hazel V. Carby’s Imperial Intimacies: A Tale of Two Islands, the essay considers the power of historical memoir to narrate the violence of the British empire through family stories. The long-intertwined histories of England and the Caribbean inevitably lead to slavery’s archives, and in the final section of the book, Carby describes the lives of her earliest ancestors on a Jamaican coffee plantation. In response, the essay author revisits her hesitations regarding slavery’s archive and the stakes of approaching the silences of enslaved people in the records. Drawing on pivotal work in black feminist studies, this essay rearticulates the nuances of Saidiya Hartman’s “critical fabulation” to bring attention back to archival boundaries and the limits of historical methodologies that make certain imaginings most difficult.

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