The transatlantic slave trade had a lasting impact not only on the development of big ports like Liverpool, London, Nantes or Bordeaux, but also in cities that far less frequently associated with slavery. In this episode, four researcher-activists from Bremen and Lancaster speak about how slavery is not just a bygone period of cruel practices far away. Our guests reveal the involvement of these places within the geographies of slavery and emphasize the “absent presence” or “present absence” (T. Morrison) of enslavism in contemporary Bremen and Lancaster. As a challenge placed in front of urban studies, tracing the historical and geographical links of slavery is discussed as a transdisciplinary and activist endeavor and a vital element of a growing contemporary anti-racist movement. Alan, Geraldine, Maimuna, and Sabine reflect on the decolonial engagements and methodologies in their respective cities and chart an outlook to deepen collaboration.
Our Guests (in alphabetical order of their first names):
Alan is Professor in English and American Studies at the University of Central Lancashire, Preston, co-director of the Institute for Black Atlantic Research (IBAR, website) and director of the UCLan Lancashire Research Centre in Migration, Diaspora and Exile (MIDEX). He has worked on the interdisciplinary study of the Black Atlantic publishing Radical Narratives of the Black Atlantic (2003) & Creating Memorials, Building Identities: The Politics of Memory in the Black Atlantic (2010). He was a founder member of the Slave Trade Arts Memorial Project in Lancaster which was responsible for unveiling a memorial commemorating victims of the slave trade in 2005, co-curated Trade and Empire: Remembering Slavery at the Whitworth Gallery Manchester in 2007 and has been consultant and talking head on a variety of documentaries with the BBC and other broadcasters. He has given keynote presentations in Britain, Germany, Switzerland, Greece, the United States, Italy, Denmark, Spain, Poland, the Netherlands and France. His latest co-written work, Inside the Invisible: Memorialising Slavery and Freedom in the Life and Works of Lubaina Himid (2019) is the first academic monograph on the 2017 Turner Prize Winner. In 2020-21 he is curating the exhibition Lubaina Himid: Memorial to Zong for the Lancaster Maritime Museum and working on projects with Preston and Lancaster Black History Groups, Fashion Revolution Week and Lancaster Jazz Festival.
Geraldine is a qualified primary school teacher who has worked in some of the local Lancaster schools as well as in East London for 7 years. Although originally from South Sudan she considers herself a Lancastrian. She is currently taking time out of her career to bring up her three young sons. Last June, in response to the Black Lives Matter protests in Lancaster, Geraldine and Rebecca Novell formed Lancaster Black History (LBH), a new grassroots community group of residents working to fight racism through education. Geraldine was appointed Chair of The Lancaster Black History Group, where she continues to campaign for schools to embed black history into the curriculum whilst also educating and informing Lancastrians about the district’s hidden history. To date, they have held meetings with the city council, local schools, local universities, local businesses, faith groups, voluntary organisations and museums, who are supportive of their work. Geraldine hopes to use her experience as one of the few black teachers as well as a black woman in a predominantly white community, to raise awareness of racial discrimination and prejudice. She believes that decolonising is about challenging the power structure we live in, so that it too includes the different narratives history books have neglected to include. To do so Geraldine is currently involved in projects which support local schools in delivering a more diverse curriculum to their students. She is also responsible for the content on social media platforms for Lancaster Black History group and regularly contributes her own ideas.
Maimuna is studying Transnational Literature at the University of Bremen. She is an activist at the Black Community Foundation Bremen – an association for Black people concerning self-empowerment – and advocates for more racism-critical and decolonial education. For this purpose, she has started a nationwide online petition together with the alliance ‘Black History in Germany’.
Prof. Dr. Sabine Broeck
Prof. Dr. Broeck is professor emerita of English-Speaking Cultures and Transnational /Transcultural Studies at the University of Bremen, with foci on intersectionality, narrativity, and slavery. Her research critiques the coloniality and structural anti-black violence of transatlantic modernity as a social formation and culture of enslavism. She was president of the international scholarly organization Collegium for African American Research (CAAR) from 2007 to 2015, as well as founder and director of the University of Bremen Institute for Postcolonial and Transcultural Studies (INPUTS) until 2015. Early in her academic career, she published the monographs Der entkolonisierte Koerper (1988) and White Amnesia-Black Memory?American Women’s Writing and History (1999), and she is co-editor, with Stella Bolaki, of Audre Lorde’s Transnational Legacies, University of Massachusetts Press 2015, as well as, with Jason Ambroise, of Black Knowledges/Black Struggles: Essays in Critical Epistemology, Liverpool University Press 2015. Her third monograph, Gender and the Abjection of Blackness, was published by SUNY Press in 2018. For more information see http://www.fb10.uni-bremen.de/lehrpersonal/broeck.aspx. Also see https://uni-bremen.academia.edu/sabinebroeck for further publications
Broeck, Sabine. 2020. Op-Ed in taz: “Bloß keine Geschichte: Der Mythos der sauberen Baumwolle” (October 7, 2020) https://taz.de/Bloss-keine-Geschichte/!5716162/
Rössler, Horst. 2016. Bremer Kaufleute und transatlantische Sklavenökonomie. 1790-1865. Bremisches Jahrbuch. Band 95. https://brema.suub.uni-bremen.de/periodical/pageview/2147950
Journal: Slavery & Abolition, Volume 42, Issue 1, 2021 Europe and Slavery: Revisiting the Impact of Slave-Based Activities on European Economies, 1500-1850. Guest Editors: Tamira Combrink & Matthias van Rossumhttps://www.tandfonline.com/toc/fsla20/current?nav=tocList
Picture: Inside Bremen Main Station. Colonial relief with slaves. Credit: Sabine Broeck.