How Disposed Of: Liberated Africans and the Waiting Space of Freedom, 1807-1930

This project is the fruition of twenty-seven years of research on the significance of the Liberated Africans, those rescued from the holds of slave ships and dhows in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, the Mediterranean and in the Caribbean between 1808 and 1888, with an aftermath that continued into the 1930s. This work considers the protracted stall in the promise of freedom for those stolen into slavery, placed into vessels for their passage to the Americas, Gulf States, and elsewhere in the Middle East, and then liberated only to learn that this would first entail apprenticeship in places from which the vast majority could never return. The book also considers how, in the aftermath of emancipation and as part of colonial projects, the horizon of an ostensible (African) freedom, became a scene of un-freedom for South and South East Asians, as they were interred in a regime of indenture.
As always, I write in both a scholarly and poetic vein—in addition to papers and essays, I have published volumes of poetry inspired by this research (Castaway and Imprendehora). The one mode of thinking and writing informs and grounds the other. My novels in progress also draw upon my Liberated Africans research. An Apprenticeship follows a fictional Liberated African who, as a boy was moved around the Indian Ocean from the time of liberation to his late adulthood, when he finally settles in late Nineteenth Century Cape Town.

Project leader(s):
  • Yvette Christiansë (Africana Studies and English Literature, Barnard College at Columbia University)

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