Backtalk/Crosstalk: Gendered Stories, Colonial Archives and Sexualized Subjects

Marisa J. Fuentes, Jennifer Morgan, and Yvette Christiansë

Backtalk Crosstalk

Backtalk/Crosstalk is a series of dialogues initiated by the Africana Studies Program to set members of the Africana faculty in conversation with diasporic scholars, artists and activists. The series highlights the gains of institutional recognition for Diaspora Studies, while encouraging and insisting on the impertinent, insolent and disruptive work that achieved such recognition. Backtalk/Crosstalk stages conversations between Barnard faculty and those of other academic institutions that traverse local and transnational historical contexts and locations, and link different political, cultural and scholarly agendas and aspirations.

This year’s forum features a lunchtime discussion between three scholars committed to finding disruptive modes of engaging the anonymous lives and gendered stories of enslaved women in the colonial archive. Our conversation will focus on a chapter from Marisa Fuentes’ forthcoming book on enslaved women in 18th Century urban Barbados, “Gendered Landscapes: Slavery, Space and the Archive in Colonial Bridgetown.” Please join us for this exciting event.

Marisa J. Fuentes completed her Ph.D. in the Department of African American Studies at UC Berkeley in 2007. She is an assistant professor at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey in the departments of History and Women’s and Gender Studies. Her current book project explores the spatial, historical, and symbolic confinement enslaved women experienced in eighteenth century Bridgetown, Barbados. Grounded in archival research and recent scholarship on gender and enslavement, Fuentes investigates how the construction of legal, architectural and historical “spaces” marked enslaved women’s bodies and experiences, in life and death. She is the author of “Power and Historical Figuring: Rachael Pringle Polgreen’s Troubled Archive” which appeared in Gender & History November 2010 and won the Andres Mattei Ramos/Neville Hall article prize from the Association of Caribbean Historians in 2012. Fuentes’ research has been supported by the Fulbright Program, Ford Foundation, Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Life with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Jennifer L. Morgan is the author of Laboring Women: Gender and Reproduction in the Making of New World Slavery (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004). Her research examines the intersections of gender and race in colonial America. She is currently at work on a project that considers colonial numeracy, racism, and the rise of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, tentatively titled Accounting for the Women in Slavery. She is Professor of History in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis and the Department of History at New York University and lives in New York City.

Yvette Christiansë is Professor of English and Africana Studies at Barnard College. A poet and fiction writer, Christiansë was born in South Africa under apartheid and immigrated with her parents to Australia at age 18. Her work has been published internationally, and her poetry collection, Castaway, was a finalist for the 2001 PEN International Poetry Prize. Her acclaimed first novel, Unconfessed, is based on the life of a slave woman in the Cape Colony and was a finalist for the 2007 Hemingway/PEN International Prize for First Fiction.