Here, Smallwood's innovative readings search the familiar ground of death and suffering to find new insight into the embodied meanings of enslavement.
For example, rather than count the total captives taken on board the not for aggregate mortality statistics but instead to illuminate the meanings Akan-speaking captives might have placed on the daily accretion of deaths at sea, unassisted by proper funerary ritual.
Having traced the rupture of West African identities and social relationships past the "point of no return," chapters 4 through 7 turn to the question of reconstituting African identity in the Americas, where the forces of the Atlantic market were no less overwhelming.
Smallwood complicates the recent debates between "creolists" who posit a synthesis of African cultures in the Americas and "slave route" advocates who argue for specific African ethnic continuities. Rather than discussing specific African survivals, Smallwood first explores in detail the "multivalent" identities of Akan-speaking people and then suggests that such a complex understanding of identity challenges "the erroneous assumption that shared culture traits automatically constitute community"(pp. Referencing Sidney Mintz and Richard Price's 1976 , Smallwood insists that men, women, and children chained in the holds of ships constituted neither "groups" nor "crowds." Rather, she argues, they were "a mutilated assemblage" of alienated persons, a "novel and problematic social configuration," and "the antithesis of community"(pp. Smallwood's final chapter on "life and death in the Diaspora" disrupts historians' sometimes over-eager search for community among traumatized persons.
Fully engaged with West African, British, Caribbean, and North American historical scholarship, Smallwood illuminates the market forces that bound the African coastal dungeons of El Mina to London shipyards and Jamaican slave markets.
At the same time, she exposes the Atlantic World as a European construction of time and space, given definition by maps, financial networks, and sailing ships.With its unflinching analysis of the violence of slave markets, (2006), scholarship calling for a "fully loaded cost accounting" of slavery has countered the earlier weight placed on resistance, autonomy, and community strength. Despite her recovery of numerous acts of African resistance and resilience, Smallwood nevertheless asks readers to confront the irreparable violence of early Atlantic capitalism. Furthermore, like Jennifer Morgan's explores the question of African subjectivity in the early centuries of the slave trade despite a near total absence of first-person voices from enslaved Africans. In terms of both argument and methodology, Smallwood has carved a groundbreaking intellectual pathway through the historiography of the Atlantic World and the transatlantic slave trade. Yet the heavily quantitative and European-centered nature of the evidence on the transatlantic slave trade still poses difficulties for historians who desire to write, as Joseph Miller phrased it, "in warmer tones," not only of aggregate numbers, but of the impact of the market on human lives. Stephanie Smallwood's visionary rethinks the route from Africa to the Americas from the perspective of forced African migrants.Their journey to Ghana, however, dismantles the idea of a homecoming and the concept of a whole sense of self. These stories function partly as a means to affirm a sense of identity.The silence and contradictions they find about the slavery past in Ghana force them to tell, and imagine, stories about well known historical figures instead, such as Jacobus Capitein, W. Despite the fact that there is no real closure, both authors stress the necessity to remember and acknowledge the history of slavery.At the heart of this book lies the argument that for most African captives, the Atlantic World was not a coherent geographic entity, but a space of saltwater terror.The Atlantic passage, then, was not a "Middle Passage" but an "experience of motion without discernible direction or destination" (p. is first and foremost a profound meditation on the historical process of commodification in early modern Atlantic markets.3) is no easy feat given the nature of Smallwood's evidence.At times, Smallwood provides original interpretations of familiar evidence, such as ex-slave Charles Ball's account of an African-born father who placed a canoe and paddle on the grave of his son to allow the son passage back across the sea to Africa. id=13735 Copyright © 2007 by H-Net, all rights reserved.