During the Spring semester of 2022, Assistant Professor Olimpia Rosenthal and Associate Professor Pedro Machado (History) co-wrote a Sawyer Seminar proposal titled Global Slaveries, Fugitivity, and the Afterlives of Unfreedom: Interconnections in Comparative Dialogue. The project was selected for nomination by IU’s Office of the Vice President for Research and was approved for funding by the Mellon Foundation on June 6, 2022.
The Seminar emphasizes the importance of studying the global interconnectedness of histories of slavery in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific worlds, foregrounding how their evolutions shaped processes of racialization and the advancement of capitalism. It also draws attention to the various forms of fugitivity that challenged systems of slavery by acts of withdrawal and contestation. Temporally, the Seminar is grounded in relation to three key moments and processes. Firstly, we consider how Europe’s colonization of the Americas during the fifteenth- and sixteenth centuries influenced the development of the Atlantic and Transpacific slave trades and the emergence of capitalism. Secondly, we highlight the different histories of abolitionism ranging from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century and consider different forms of coerced labor practices such as bondage, indenture, kangani, and ‘coolie’ labor that developed in the transition to ‘free’ labor in the nineteenth century. Finally, we consider how slavery, unfreedom, and fugitivity are memorialized today, particularly in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter movement and in light of various forms of indigenous activism in the Americas and around the world. The Seminar is interdisciplinary and comparative, and involves scholars from different departments as lead collaborators, including Associate Professor Luciana Namorato (Spanish and Portuguese) as well as other colleagues from African American and African Diaspora Studies, Art History, Geography, History, and the Lilly Library.
The Seminar will run during the Fall of 2023 and Spring of 2024 and will feature lectures and workshops by prominent scholars from varied institutions across the United States and around the world. The list of prospective invited speakers includes, among others, Jennifer Morgan (New York University), Lamonte Aidoo (Duke University), Lisa Lowe (Yale), Tatiana Seijas (Rutgers), Vincent Brown (Harvard University), Daniel Nemser (University of Michigan), Adam Bledsoe (University of Minnesota), Neil Roberts (William College), Pedró Lebrón Ortíz (Independent Scholar, Puerto Rico), Simone Bohn (York University), Jane Landers (Vanderbilt University), Ananda Cohen-Aponte (Cornell University), and Marcelo D’Salete (author and illustrator of Angola Janga: Kingdom of Runaway Slaves). The Seminar will also feature two exhibits open to the broader public, one at the Lilly Library and a second one in Maxwell Hall, and monthly reading groups. A Postdoctoral Fellowship and two Graduate Dissertation Fellowships will also be awarded to scholars working on the main themes explored in the Seminar.