In the spirit of writing up my recent conference visits, I thought I would share a rundown of the conference entitled "Enslavement: Colonial Appropriations, Apparitions, Remembrances, 1750-present day" hosted by the Centre for Studies in Literature at the University of Portsmouth. This report is incomplete as my notes for the day were sporadic, this being so far from my usual field, but I'll put up what I can reconstruct.
James Walvin (University of York)
James spoke on the 2007 commemoration of two hundred years since the abolition of the slave trade, with particular reference to his forthcoming work on the 1781 Zong massacre. He also cited the amazing rise, in academic circles, of the study of slavery as a field, stating that only 40 years ago, it was not considered a central topic in its own right.
Jessica Moody (University of York)
Jessica's paper focused on the consistent double-edged representation of Liverpool's shameful history of participation in the slave trade, giving examples from several local history sources of the way in which this is presented as merely the coincidental outlet of Liverpool's industrious spirit, implying it would have been successful in any other field. This raised many interesting questions on the notion of inherited collected guilt, and individual, civic and national pride when founded upon ethically repulsive bases.
Sarah Flocken (University of Edinburgh)
This paper looked at Elfriede Jelinek's Women as Lovers and Samuel Beckett's Endgame within an Adornion inflected re-conception of Hegelian master-slave dialectic, examining the tropes of dependence at stake in these works. The reading led to a postmodern nihilism in which identity formation remains forever impossible, beyond the reach of the infantile regressions depicted in these works.
Gabrielle Mearns (Warwick University)
Although this topic is far far beyond my remit, Gabrielle presented an interesting account of the parallels Francis Trollope draws between slavery and conditions of work in Victorian factory conditions; an important move that I ethically queried in my own paper.
Martin Paul Eve (University of Sussex)
While I didn't record this event, my abstract remains available.
Scott Henkel (Binghamton University)
Scott's paper actually focused on C.L.R. James' The Black Jacobins, with which I am unfamiliar. What I found especially interesting in his paper, however, was the analysis of swarm-like behaviour of uprisings, a notion about which, in the discussion, we remained cautious on the appropriateness of the metaphor and also linked to Deleuze's surface causes in the Rhizome.
Featured image by quadelirus under a CC-BY-NC-ND license.