“their predatory excursions greatly distressed the back settlers”: Maroonage, Belonging and the Jamaican Frontier

Authors: Alex Moulton*, University of Tennessee
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Cultural and Political Ecology, Historical Geography
Keywords: Black Geographies, fugitivity, plantation, resistance
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Maroonage spatializes Black freedom and attests to Black spatial agency and epistemologies. In Jamaica, Maroon practices presented an existential threat to white colonialists attempting to settle the rural frontier and extend plantation geographies. The spaces Maroons (re)created critiqued the white supremacy and hegemonic racial project of plantation slavery. Maroon sense of Jamaican space and maroonage as a spatial identity were refined in the forested interior and rugged topography of the Cockpit Country and the Blue and John Crow Mountains. These hard to reach and difficult to navigate areas were recognized by white settlers and colonial officials as dangerous. But the little flat lands surrounding the Maroon haunts were desirable for aspiring settlers who could not afford the prime plantation lands. These areas around the Maroon spaces became a frontier. At this zone of contact between white settlers and the Maroons the ‘normal order’ of colonial blackness and whiteness was disrupted. This paper examines what the racialized and racist critiques of Maroons’ impact on colonial territorialization reveal about the effectiveness of Black space taking and placemaking. Based in part on readings of archival documents from colonists and colonial administrator, like planter-historians –including R.C. Dallas, whose comment forms part of this paper’s title– I show how the trajectory of Jamaican political economy was shaped by the Maroons as spatial actors. In so doing, I argue for a historiography of the Maroons that moves away from hero-traitor tropes toward an examination of their impacts on the imagined and material geographies of Jamaica.

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