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Faculty and Graduate Students for a Conference on:

Activating the Past: Latin America in the Black Atlantic
April 23-24, 2005
UCLA International Institute

Andrew Apter and Robin Derby,
History Department

Our scheduled conference on activating the past explores trans-Atlantic modes of memorialization through ritual, iconography, popular narratives and spatial practices.=20 These will be considered as dynamic archives of the past, representing critical
historical events and transformations associated with the rise of slavery in the black Atlantic world. We will examine the opaque as well as transparent dimensions of embedded and embodied memories in order to gain access to forbidden pasts: memories that have been repressed or occluded because of their violent or controversial implications.

Case studies will focus on West Africa, Brazil and the Creole Caribbean. In West Africa, we will examine how dominant ethnic groups such as the Yoruba, Ashanti, Wolof and Temne brokered trade relations between European merchants and Africans in the hinterland, using ritual associations to secure fetish contracts and control markets.

In the Americas, presentations on Brazil, Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico will explore the extension of these West African ritual systems into syncretic New World cultural and textual forms. The goal of our conference is to disclose hidden historical references to local and regional encounters with the trans-Atlantic slave trade, focusing on religious practices and artifacts that shaped changing political and economic relationships in fetishized forms of power and value.

Although the history of the Atlantic slave trade is rarely acknowledged in the popular imagination of West Africa and the Hispanic Caribbean, it has retreated, so to speak, within ritual associations and other practices as a restricted, secret history that is activated in various social and sacred domains. We will also highlight significant variations within regional worlds on both sides of the Atlantic. In West Africa, comparison of port cities along the coast will also extend to northern territories in the hinterlands
where slave raiding occurred but is rarely acknowledged. In the Caribbean, regional contrasts between coastal and hinterland communities and social types will relate figures of the Montero, the J=EDbaro, the Indio and the Caboclo to their ritual representations in Santer=EDa, Vodou, and Candombl=E9.

Faculty and graduate students interested in participating should send a paper proposal of 200 words to

Robin Derby at derby@history.ucla.edu.

Robin L.H. Derby
Assistant Professor
Department of History, UCLA
7238 Bunche Hall, Box 951473
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1473
Tel: 310-267-5461

Fax: 310-206-9630