Event | Conference

Symposium | Slave Pasts in the Present: Narrating Slavery through the Arts, Technology, and Tourism

Venue: KJCC Auditorium • 53 Washington Square South

Organized by Keila Grinberg, Spring 2018 Andrés Bello Chair in Latin American Cultures and Civilizations at New York University

Over the past few years, slavery has become a frequent theme in contemporary culture. Even though the topic has always been central in countries such as Brazil and the United States, it seems we have been watching more movies, soap operas and TV series on slavery than ever. Tourists are visiting historical sites and engaging in tours on the history and memory of the slave trade all over the Atlantic world. Crowds are packing museums on African-American culture. Slavery is represented in dance in popular festivals such as Rio’s carnival. Not surprisingly, slavery is a topic as sensitive as it is trendy. Video games and children’s books are provoking discussions among school age parents. Movies are becoming public controversies. And the discussions over memorials and statues that deal with the slave past set the stage for political protests all over the United States.

This symposium aims to discuss the ways in which slavery is narrated in the tourism and entertainment industries. Is it right to visit sites of tragedy and genocide as tourists? Are we witnessing a process of spectacularization of slavery in the arts? What are the boundaries between spreading the knowledge on a crime against humanity and stimulating its cultural consumerism? Is it possible to portray slavery in a videogame? How to balance sensitivity to the topic, historical accuracy and artistic creativity? How to interpret the different modes of reactions by the public? Are those initiatives helping us fight racism? Bringing together a group of intellectuals from different countries and backgrounds, we will address these questions and their broader significance in contemporary societies connected by the tragedy of its slave past.


Friday, April 27th, 2018 Slavery on the Big Screen

5:30 pm Opening Remarks

5:45 pm – 7:45 pm Screening of Vazante (Brazil/Portugal, 2017, 1h 56 min), directed by Daniela Thomas

7:45 pm – 9:00 pm Discussion with director Daniela Thomas, Hebe Mattos (Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora, Brazil) and Jennifer Morgan (NYU) Chair: Steve Hahn (NYU)

Reception to follow.

Saturday, April 28th, 2018

10 am – 10:30 am Coffee

10:30 am – 1:00 pm Slavery, Heritage and Tourism

Chair: Barbara Weinstein (NYU)

Monica Lima (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro): Talking about the History of Slavery Visiting a Site of Sensitive Memory: the Case of Valongo Wharf in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Keila Grinberg (Andrés Bello Visiting Professor, NYU and UNIRIO): Slavery and the Challenges of Tourism of Memory in Brazil

Alissandra Cummings (University of West Indies, Barbados): The Absence of Presence: Resurrecting the “Ghost of Slavery” in 21st Century Caribbean/Barbados

Paul Gardullo (National Museum of African American History and Culture): Meanings of Memory: Building Community Stewardship around the history of the slave trade in Mozambique and South Africa

Discussant: Daryle Williams (University of Maryland)

1:00 pm – 2:30 pm Lunch

2:30 pm – 5:30 pm Slavery, Storytelling and Entertainment

Chair: Ada Ferrer (NYU)

Paula Halperin (SUNY: Purchase College): Domestic Space, Intimacy, and Historical Imagination in the Brazilian Soap Opera Escrava Isaura (1976)

Brenda Romero (Limerick University): The New World: A Look at Slavery in Games

Lisa Woolfork (University of Virginia): Deliberate Remembering and Willful Forgetting: Approaches to American Slavery in Popular Culture

Ashraf Rushdy (Wesleyan University): Underground and Overseas: Recent Developments in Contemporary Narratives of Slavery

Martha Abreu (Universidade Federal Fluminense): Narratives about Slavery in Brazilian Samba and Carnival

Discussant: Yuko Miki (Fordham University)

Reception to follow.