JCB Fellow's Talk: Valeria Tsygankova
Valeria Tsygankova (Columbia University), John Carter Brown Library Associates Fellow
"Material Culture of Anti-Slavery: Persons and Things in the Plantation Zone, 1780-1840"
This presentation examines descriptions of ritual obeah objects made by slaves and maroons in Jamaica and Guiana, situating these so-called “fetishes” within the intellectual and material context of colonial slavery and antislavery (c. 1780-1840). While European philosophers argued over the meanings of African subject-object relations, abolitionists seized on the idea of fabrication as a proof of common humanity, and African slaves were compelled to sustain a rationalized plantation project that depended on specialized containers for processing, transporting, and preserving commodities. Within this object world, Afro-Caribbean people routinely made objects that baffled European understanding. This talk considers not only those objects marked as obeah, but also other resistant fabrications and disruptive manufactures that undermined an Enlightenment understanding of objects and personhood, and suggested modes of agency and recognition lost on European observers.
The Reading Room will close to researchers at 3:30 p.m.