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VIRTUAL - Reflections from the Slave Wrecks Project’s First Decade: Towards a Transformative and Decolonizing Maritime Archaeology
October 21, 2020 @ 7:00 pm - 8:15 pm EDT
This is an online event.
Sponsored by: AIA, Washington, DC Society
AIA Society: Washington, D.C.
by Stephen C. Lubkemann (Associate Professor of Anthropology and International Affairs, George Washington University)
Drawing on the work undertaken over the last seven years in places as diverse as South Africa, Mozambique, Senegal, Alabama, the Us Virgin Islands, Florida, Brazil, and Cuba (amongst others) this paper examines how the Slave Wrecks Project as an internationally collaborative field research program, and its stakeholder engagement and capacity-building initiatives have all come to inform each other in profoundly transformative ways. Our investigations of specific slaver shipwrecks have compelled a re-conceptualization of notions of “the site” itself and of research strategies for addressing the “Black Atlantic”, while also underwriting complex re-considerations of concepts of “heritage”, “stake” and “stakeholder”, ”community”, “engagement” and “memory”. SWP’s emerging approach has drawn from sources as diverse as South African critiques of apartheid’s “heritage legacy” and Mozambican cultural scripts for contending with historical violence. We reflect on the signature approach emerging from this struggle to be “ethical social navigators“ in contexts where stakeholders may disagree with researchers and each other about the past’s meanings; about the merits of, or methods for, its recovery; and about the disposition of tangible vestiges of the lived past in the living present. We critically consider what “collaboration” has often meant in international and inter-racial projects, and what it needs to entail—with respect to scholarship, decision-making, participation, and power-sharing—if we seek to contribute to the diversification and decolonization of the intersecting fields of scholarship that are drawn upon in the maritime archeology of the slave trade. We reflect on what we have learned through trial and error in a still evolving and learning project, about the need for, and what is needed to bring about, a transformative maritime archaeology of the slave trade that will challenge our field—both analytically and as a socially-embedded practice, critically contending with colonial and nationalist legacies that have implicitly shaped it—while exploring the analytical possibilities for re-shaping archeological concepts and technical approaches themselves.