A Dartmouth College and York University/UNESCO/SSHRCC Nigerian Hinterland Project Workshop
Dartmouth College May 18 20, 2001
trade in enslaved African men and women established the first building blocks of the
shared history that links the Caribbean and the Nigerian hinterland, the region that
extends from Benin to eastern Nigeria. Although
scholars have long recognized the historic and cultural relationships between these two
regions, gender and the experiences of women have not been integral components of the
analysis. Furthermore, most studies have
focused primarily on the period between the early sixteenth and mid- nineteenth centuries
despite the fact that the links between both regions have been continuous and dynamic. Important new scholarship by both Caribbean and
African scholars suggest that the historical and cultural linkages between both regions
need to be re-examined in light of the valuable theoretical and methodological insights
from womens studies and gender studies more broadly.
This workshop will bring together scholars and graduate students from a number of disciplines History, Literature, Religion - and countries to explore the possibilities for more systematic examination of the linkages between the Caribbean and the Nigerian hinterland. Our deliberations will concentrate on how to get at the voices and life histories of women who moved between both regions as well as those who lived exclusively in the Caribbean or the Nigerian hinterland, but whose life stories or cultural production facilitate comparative analyses of larger processes and developments. Womens stories of enslavement, colonialism or migration itself will give us valuable insights into how they understood the context of their lives as well as the social, cultural and economic resources they drew on to sustain themselves, their families and their communities.
Many of the participants are already members of the York University/UNESCO/SSHRCC Nigerian Hinterland Project and its associated project, the Text and Testimony Collective based at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica. Thus, this workshop will build on the intellectual and collaborative foundations already established by these projects. The research ultimately produced from this workshop will contribute to a biographical database of enslaved Africans that the Nigerian Hinterland Project is constructing. This database will also include biographical data on those who escaped enslavement in the United States through the underground railroad. This database will be invaluable to students and scholars of the trans-Atlantic trade and will enable us to refine our understanding of the ways in which gender and culture shaped black womens experiences during the era of the trade and the processes in its wake.