CfP: Haunted History in France and America: When the Ghosts of Slavery Resurface

Call for papers, deadline 31 December 2017


Call for Papers

Haunted History in France and America: When the Ghosts of Slavery Resurface

As seen in Charleston, South Carolina and more recently in Charlottesville, Virginia, monuments that celebrate slave-owning heritage such as confederate flags and memorials honoring anti-abolitionists have become contentious subjects, leading to outrage and violence. For some, these controversial symbols represent racial oppression; for others, their heritage, turning historic landscapes into a stage for the ongoing conversation about race and inequality in America.  Unlike France, the United States has yet to officially acknowledge slavery as a crime against humanity or to erect slave memorials that pay homage to the victims.

2018 will mark the 170th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in France’s former colonies.  Since the 150th anniversary of the Abolition of Slavery in 1998 and the Taubira law of 2001, the French State has sponsored a number of memorials across continental France and its overseas departments. These include memorials along the slave ports of arrivals in Western France, the impressive ACTe memorial in Guadeloupe, François Hollande’s commitment to build a state-of-the-art slave memorial museum in Paris, and the declaration of May 10th as the national day for commemorating slavery. Nevertheless, the current will to equate remembrance with reparation seems at odds with the reality in France where institutionalized racism along with socioeconomic disparity between Whites and Blacks continue to intensify racial division. On both sides of the Atlantic, people call for the creation of slave memorials to break the cycle of the past. Creating monuments alone is not sufficient.  The conversation about race must take place as well.  And as Professor Jennifer Allen says in a recent conversation with NPR, “the discussions about monuments and the Confederacy…are an opportunity for the U.S. to reimagine its relationship to the past” (2017). She further suggests that the moment the younger generation becomes involved in the debate, “you start to see a sort of qualitative re-evaluation of the kind of forms memory and commemoration might take” (2017). The same can be applied to France.  The symbolic act of remembering must be followed by real actions that will bring meaningful changes not only in the lives of slaves’ descendants but also in racial equality.

We are particularly interested in interdisciplinary studies and welcome a diversity of methodological approaches. Our goal is to have a stimulating conversation on this heated debate from both sides of the Atlantic.  Contributions may address one or more of the following:

  • Memory politics
  • Trauma theory and slavery
  • Critical race theory
  • The reconstruction of slavery in literature
  • Absence of slave autobiographies and narratives in French literature
  • The unsung heroes of slavery abolition
  • Social history
  • Sources and archives on slavery
  • Public space as historic landscape
  • Architecture and the politics of memorialization
  • Reconstruction of memory
  • The significance of selective versus collective memory
  • Disguising and displacing slavery in France
  • Cinema and memory
  • Commemoration, museums, and monuments
  • Museums as sites of contestation
  • Myths and silence in the discourses of abolition
  • Schoelcherism and politics of assimilation
  • Slavery and the struggle for freedom as imaginary narratives
  • The role of Saint-Domingue in the first emancipation
  • Haiti as the first black nation and antebellum America

Submissions: abstracts accepted in French or English.  Please send an abstract of 250 to 300 words along with a short biographical statement (100 words maximum) that includes your university affiliation to:

Abstracts will be accepted until midnight EST on December 31, 2017.  Responses will be given no later than January 15, 2018.