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The Amistad Saga: A Transatlantic Dialogue  

Jorge Felipe-Gonzalez, Gibril R. Cole, and Benjamin N. Lawrance

The story of the slave ship La Amistad is one of the most celebrated and narrated 19th-century stories of the transatlantic slave trade. To fully appreciate the significance and impact of the events and circumstances of this fateful episode, it is important to examine its legacy from multiple points of the Atlantic world—vestiges of the triangular trade bequeathed by the Columbian Exchange. For a long time, the Amistad saga has been viewed from a very US-centric perspective because the dispute over the lives of the Africans rose to the US Supreme Court in 1840–1841. New archival and oral research in West Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean is rebalancing the narrative and revising the historical drama. Today, the Amistad story is widely recognized as a quintessentially Atlantic story, a story of mobility that moves back and forth across the Atlantic in multiple directions over many decades. The deployment of the phrase “Amistad saga” provides a vehicle with which to critique the socio-legal battles about transatlantic slave trading in Caribbean, North American, and West African history. The Amistad story is often described as pre-incidental to the US Civil War. The victory of African defendants is often framed as a self-congratulatory vindication of the successful resistance of enslaved Africans. The celebrated figure of “Joseph Cinqué” or Sengbe Pieh, the self-appointed leader of the Africans, and a replica of the ship itself are part of an Amistad memory industry that attempts to narrate the slave trade and its abolition. A new framework for teaching and understanding the history of the Amistad saga and its memory and forgetting through an Atlantic lens must combine historical and contemporary perspectives from the United States, Europe, Cuba, and Sierra Leone.

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Recuperative Archives, Critical Resistance, and the History of the Senses in the Atlantic World  

Andrew Kettler

Atlantic history is frequently aided within the project of recuperating subaltern voices within the archives through the methods of sensory studies. The history of the senses allows for a reading of embodiment at both individual and group levels of analysis, which helps historians of the Atlantic World find pathways toward the recuperation of the oppressed in a newly critical archive while also avoiding the trap of an overtly romantic historical analysis of resistance through the methods of structuralism. The history of the senses finds a political voice with a prominent desire to remake the archive through understanding human experience in all its negative and positive formulations, as in numerous studies of indigeneity, religious practice, royal performance, enslavement, and labor for the Atlantic World. Postcolonial and postmodern readings of race, class, and gender inform these discussions of sensory history through attention to social construction, performance, and diverse readings of fiction as vital to any recuperative archive. These sensory aspects of the archive within the Atlantic World offer new paradigms for thinking about activist history in the face of advanced forms of percepticide during these accelerating stages of late capitalism.