Curating Transatlantic Slavery: The Space of the Museum

Authors: Jan Anderson*, York University, Andrea Medovarski, York university
Topics: Africa, Tourism Geography, Ethnicity and Race
Keywords: Middle Passage Museum Dark Tourism
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Napoleon D2, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper proposes a critical examination of slavery tourism in the United Kingdom. It is part of a larger project, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, exploring cultural representations of the Middle Passage. In this paper, we will present preliminary findings from two research trips to Liverpool, Hull and Bristol, UK. We will examine the museum and tours in these cities, and examine the ways in which the Middle Passage is invoked for the public in the growing industry of “slavery tourism.”

In exploring these sites, our research questions include: How is the middle passage being represented, and on what terms? How do these geographic sites offer legibility to such a violent history and experience? And, will these sites, in the ways they invoke the middle passage (e.g. though signage, exhibit labels, the oral interpretation offered through tours, souvenir shops and museums), engage in hegemonic or oppositional pedagogies?

By interrogating these sites, we will consider the ways in which the absent geography of the Middle Passage is invoked for a nonacademic audience: will it be represented in ‘manageable’ or ‘unmanageable’ ways? We will also gauge the ethical considerations of such an industry, which traverses in and relies upon these traumatic histories.

Our multiple first person points of view are an important aspect of our methodology. We will incorporate them into our paper in order to disrupt the notion that the Middle Passage can ever be narrated or theorized in any singular or homogenous way.

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