The Slave Ship, Memory and the Origin of Modernity: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Slave Ship, Memory and the Origin of Modernity

1st Edition

By Martyn Hudson


160 pages

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Paperback: 9781138602816
pub: 2018-05-09
Hardback: 9781472453433
pub: 2016-01-06
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Traces; slave names, the islands and cities into which we are born, our musics and rhythms, our genetic compositions, our stories of our lost utopias and the atrocities inflicted upon our ancestors, by our ancestors, the social structure of our cities, the nature of our diasporas, the scars inflicted by history. These are all the remnants of the middle passage of the slave ship for those in the multiple diasporas of the globe today, whose complex histories were shaped by that journey. Whatever remnants that once existed in the subjectivities and collectivities upon which slavery was inflicted has long passed. But there are hints in material culture, genetic and cultural transmissions and objects that shape certain kinds of narratives - this is how we know ourselves and how we tell our stories. This path-breaking book uncovers the significance of the memory of the slave ship for modernity as well as its role in the cultural production of modernity. By so doing, it examines methods of ethnography for historical events and experiences and offers a sociology and a history from below of the slave experience. The arguments in this book show the way for using memory studies to undermine contemporary slavery.


Hudson's search for authentic voices of the millions of enslaved Africans shipped as cargo� across the Atlantic to the Americas leads to an impressive original discussion of the methodologies involved in recapturing this crucial phase of the creation of African-American cultures.

Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, Michigan State University, USA

Table of Contents

Introduction: the slave ship, memory and the origin of modernity

1. The sea, the passage, and slavery

2. The dark hold: the slave ship and the middle passage

3. Marx and the pirates: ‘forcing houses of internationalism’ and the nautical proletariat

4. Wooden life-worlds: memory studies and the experience of slavery

5. The slave ship, plantations and materiality of memory

6. The passage, syncretic memory and sound

7. Traces, memory, and the human

Conclusions - memory, slavery, modernity



About the Author

Martyn Hudson directs the Co-Curate North East Programme at Newcastle University and works on the relations between sound archives, history, and social machines with a specific interest in web-based slave databases and archives. He has directed arts and history projects with refugees, trauma and torture survivors and trafficked migrants and is currently working with projects to support new boat peoples like the Rohingya and in music projects to support trauma recovery.

About the Series

Memory Studies: Global Constellations

Memory Studies: Global Constellations

Memory Studies as an academic field of cultural inquiry emerges at a time when global public debates, buttressed by the fragmentation of nation states and their traditional narratives, have greatly accelerated. Societies are today pregnant with newly unmediated memories, once sequestered in broad collective representations and their ideological stances. But, the ‘past in the present’ has returned with a vengeance in the early 21st Century, and with it an expansion of categories of cultural experience and meaning. This new series explores the social and cultural stakes around forgetting, useful forgetting and remembering, locally, regionally, nationally and globally. It welcomes studies of migrant memory from failed states; micro-histories battling against collective memories; the mnemonic past of emotions; the mnemonic spatiality of sites of memory; and the reconstructive ethics of memory in the face of galloping informationalization, as this renders the ‘mnemonic’ more and more public and publically accessible.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Social History