Middle Passages: The Oceanic Voyage as Social Process
An interdisciplinary conference to be held in Perth, Western Australia
July 13-16, 2005
Professor Marcus Rediker, University of Pittsburgh
Professor Cassandra Pybus, University of Tasmania, Australia
Sponsored by the International Centre for Convict Studies and the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of Western Australia, will be hosted by the Western Australia Maritime Museum in Fremantle (near Perth), Australia.
The aim of this international conference is to explore the social and cultural transformations caused by the transport of labor, unfree and free, around and across the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. Our definition of the ocean includes riverine and other hydrographic systems that connect to it.
We seek to investigate, compare, and connect the experiences of slaves, indentured servants, transported convicts, political prisoners, sailors, and migrants of all kinds, and to consider ships as places where their struggles have made history.
We take our title from the infamous African slave trade. Abolitionists made the middle passage an enduring symbol of degradation – brutality, inhumanity, suffering, and death – but we now begin to understand that between the decks of these vessels of howling misery lay creativity, something new: the origins of defiant, resilient, life-affirming African-American and Afro-Caribbean cultures. This contradictory epitome can help to illuminate other middle passages in which the oceanic voyage was the structuring link between expropriation in one geographic setting and exploitation in another.
The conference builds on, and hopes to expand, exciting new scholarship on the diverse men and women who labored and traveled in ships around the world, often forced from their home and family to work in strange new lands. Within an interdisciplinary forum we will ask these questions:
How did middle passages affect those who made them?
How did they shape their understanding of themselves
and their relations to others?
How did ships function as transnational contact zones?
How did ships and middle passages serve an expanding system of global capitalism?
How do the national histories of America and other new world societies look when viewed not from the vantage of settlers on land but rather migrants aboard transoceanic ships?
We encourage submissions from historians, literary and cultural critics, archaeologists, geographers, museum professionals, and others who seek in interdisciplinary fashion to combine various aspects of the general theme. We invite papers that emphasize the transformative historical function of vessels of all kinds, from the smallest indigenous canoe to the deep-sea vessel of the age of sail, to the largest modern cargo ship, especially related to these specific themes:
Early modern maritime culture
The sea peoples of Oceania
The social construction of the ocean
Middle passage of the transatlantic slave trade.
Human movement across the Indian Ocean
Forced migration and New World Societies
Boat people and asylum seekers
The Black Atlantic
Please send abstracts of 300 words to Emma Christopher at the email below.
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