Phillips Thesis Slavery

Though some of the questions Smallwood raises may not ever be answered, the eloquent and sophisticated framing of her inquiry sets the terms of discussion for future studies of transatlantic slavery.

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Focused on the British slave trade from the Gold Coast between 16, offers a broadly relevant exploration of the processes of commodification and forced migration.

Drawing on both the business records and the voluminous correspondence of the Royal African Company (RAC), the book's seven chapters follow the trajectory from West African captivity across the Atlantic to the expanding plantation complex of the Americas.

Instead of the familiar interpretation that this evidence shows the survival of African cosmology, Smallwood uses the anecdote to deepen her argument of the impact of the "saltwater" passage that required enslaved Africans to innovate ritual "to meet the particular needs of slave life in the Atlantic system" (p. At other times, Smallwood relies heavily on secondary literature about Akan kinship, culture, and politics to piece together the way captive Africans may have strained to understand the long Atlantic voyage. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online.

The richness of Smallwood's discussions of Gold Coast cultures and societies contrasts starkly with the absence of direct evidence from captive Africans and emphasizes the void of meaning that transatlantic enslavement created. For any other proposed use, contact the Reviews editorial staff at [email protected]

Here, Smallwood's innovative readings search the familiar ground of death and suffering to find new insight into the embodied meanings of enslavement.

For example, rather than count the total captives taken on board the not for aggregate mortality statistics but instead to illuminate the meanings Akan-speaking captives might have placed on the daily accretion of deaths at sea, unassisted by proper funerary ritual.

3) is no easy feat given the nature of Smallwood's evidence.

At times, Smallwood provides original interpretations of familiar evidence, such as ex-slave Charles Ball's account of an African-born father who placed a canoe and paddle on the grave of his son to allow the son passage back across the sea to Africa. id=13735 Copyright © 2007 by H-Net, all rights reserved.

At the same time, Smallwood calls attention to the enormous energy required by Africans who managed to reverse even partially the relentless current of commodification by reestablishing new social relations under American slavery.

Compared to voluntary immigrants' social networks that served to connect past and present, Smallwood argues, enslaved African communities in the Americas faced the "serial repetition of one-way departures" in which the "voices of saltwater slaves, could not reverberate back to Africa" (p. Bringing "the people aboard slave ships to life as subjects in American social history" (p.


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