ANN: 2022 Awards of the Latin American and Caribbean Section of the Southern Historical Association (2nd Call)

The Latin American and Caribbean Section of the Southern Historical Association (SHA-LACS) is pleased to announce that submissions are being accepted for several prizes, as outlined below. All applicants must be members of LACS.

*Any questions should be directed to the president of SHA-LACS, Prof. Juan José Ponce Vázquez, The University of Alabama,

Kimberly Hanger Article Prize

Professor Kimberly Hanger was a historian of Louisiana’s Spanish colonial period, and author of, among other publications, her classic Bounded Lives, Bounded Places (Duke, [1997] 2002). 

We invite submissions for articles published on Latin America, the Atlantic World, the Borderlands, and the Caribbean, time frame of study is open. The article itself must have been published between January 1, 2021, and December 31, 2021.

Criteria for selection include: quality and originality of research, new and stimulating interpretations and writing quality.

Please include a cover letter with the name of the author, institutional affiliation, and an article abstract.

Email submissions by JUNE 1 to ALL of the following committee members:

Prof. Corinna Zeltsman, committee chair

Georgia Southern University

Prof. Joshua Savala

Rollins College

Prof. G. Antonio Espinoza 

Virginia Commonwealth University

Prof. Erica Johnson Edwards

Francis Marion University

Murdo J. MacLeod Book Prize—

Professor Murdo J. MacLeod is a historian of colonial Latin American and the Caribbean. He wrote, among other works,Spanish Central America: A Socioeconomic History (University of TX Press, [1973], [1984], 2008).

We invite submissions for books published on Latin America, the Atlantic World, the Borderlands, and the Caribbean, time frame of study is open. The book itself must have been published between January 1, 2021, and December 31, 2021.

Criteria for selection include: quality and originality of research, new and stimulating interpretations and writing quality.

Please include a cover letter with the name of the author, institutional affiliation, and a summary of the book.

SEND by mail a hard copy of submission by JUNE 1 to ALL of the following committee members:

Prof. Alejandra Dubcovsky, committee chair

University of California Riverside

(Please contact Professor Dubcovsky for mailing address)

Prof. April J. Mayes

Pomona College

University of North Carolina

Mail to:

Prof. April Mayes

Pomona College

550 N. College Ave.

Claremont, CA 91711

Prof. Matthew Butler

University of Texas – Austin

Mail to:

Prof. Matthew Butler

University of Texas at Austin

128 Inner Campus Dr. B7000

GAR 1.104

Austin, Texas 78712-1739

Prof. Erica Johnson Edwards

Francis Marion University

Mail to:

Prof. Johnson Edwards

2001 Morganton Rd

Fayetteville, NC  28305

Ralph Lee Woodward Jr. Prize

Professor Woodward taught at the University of North Carolina (1963-1970), at Tulane University (1970-1999), and at Texas Christian University (1999-2003). He authored numerous publications, including: Class Privilege and Economic Development: The Consulado de Comercio of Guatemala, 1793-1871 (1966), Robinson Crusoe’s Island: A History of the Juan Fernández Islands (1969), Central America: A Nation Divided ([1976], [1985] 1999).

We invite submissions for graduate student papers presented during the November 2021 conference on Latin America, the Atlantic World, the Borderlands, and the Caribbean, time frame of study is open.

Criteria for selection include: quality and originality of research, new and stimulating interpretations, and writing quality.

Please include a cover letter with the name of the author, contact information, institutional affiliation, and a paper abstract.

Email submissions by JUNE 1 to ALL of the following committee members:

Professor Casey Schmitt, committee chair

Cornell University

Professor Mary Draper

Midwestern State University Texas

Professor Kelly Urban

University of Southern Alabama

Prof. Erica Johnson Edwards

Francis Marion University

Richmond F. Brown Prize

As a graduate student, Richmond Brown trained under Professor Ralph Lee Woodward Jr. at Tulane University. His areas of regional expertise were colonial Central America and the Spanish Southeast. His publications, among others, includeJuan Fermín de Aycinena: Central American Entrepreneur, 1729-1796(University of Oaklahoma Press, 1997), andCoastal Encounters: The Transformation of the Gulf South in the 18th Century (University of Nebraska Press, 2008).

We invite submissions for dissertations written on Latin America, the Atlantic World, the Borderlands, and the Caribbean, time frame of study is open. The dissertation itself must have been completed and defended between January 1, 2021, and December 31, 2021.

Criteria for selection include: quality and originality of research, new and stimulating interpretations and writing quality.

Please include a cover letter with the name of the author, institutional affiliation, and a dissertation abstract.

Email submissions by JUNE 1 to ALL of the following committee members:

Professor Fabricio Prado, committee chair

College of William and Mary

Professor Daniel da Silva

Rutgers University

Professor Maria Cecilia Ulrickson

Catholic University of America

Prof. Erica Johnson Edwards

Francis Marion University

French Colonial Historical Society Book Prizes

The French Colonial Historical Society/Société d’histoire coloniale française awards two book prizes annually for the best books on French colonial or post-colonial history published during the preceding year.  

The Boucher Prize is awarded in honor of long-time members and active supporters Mary Alice and Philip Boucher and recognizes the best book on the French colonial experience from the 16th century to 1815.

The Heggoy Prize is awarded in honor of FCHS founding member Alf Andrew Heggoy, and recognizes the best book on the French colonial experience from 1815 to the present. 

 Books from any academic discipline will be considered, provided that they approach the French colonial and post-colonial experience from a historical perspective. 

 The deadline for this year’s submissions is February 28, 2022. To obtain addresses to which to send submissions or if you have questions about the submission process, please contact Dr. Elizabeth Heath, Chair of the FCHS Book Prize Committee, at

 Applicants or their publishers should submit four copies of books, one to each committee member. Books must have been published in 2021; date of publication is determined by the copyright page of the book. Please clearly indicate whether the submission is for the Boucher or Heggoy Prize. ​

For more information and to see a list of previous winners, please visit the FCHS/SHCF book prize page

Contact Info: Elizabeth Heath, FCHS/SHCF Book Prize Chair

Contact Email:


TSA-CUP Book Prize


The TSA-CUP book prize is awarded to the best book published within a given year in the broad field of transatlantic studies. Both monographs and edited collections are eligible.

We are now accepting nominations from individuals and publishers for books published in 2021. The deadline for nominations is 15 January 2022. The winner will be announced at the TSA annual conference in July 2022.

For any queries, please contact the TSA Prizes and Awards Officer, David Ryan.


£150 cheque from the TSA

£150 book token from Cambridge University Press

The prize-winner will be announced at the TSA Annual Conference in July. 

The nominated author/s can be at any career level, and all must be TSA members before the nomination deadline.

The book must have a focus on Transatlantic content.

The transatlantic region is broadly defined and includes the Americas and the Caribbean in the west and Europe extending to Russia the Middle East and Africa in the east.

The subject areas covered by the prize are as follows:

  • Transatlantic Cultural Studies
  • Literature and cultural studies
  • International Relations & Politics
  • History
  • Race, Slavery and Migration
  • Security Studies (especially relating to NATO)
  • Economics and Business Studies
  • Environmental studies
  • Film
  • Sociology and Social Policy
  • Theatre

Contact Info: Professor David Ryan

Contact Email:


Postcolonial Perspectives in Area Studies (special issue)

The journal Acta Universitatis Carolinae – Studia Territorialia invites authors to submit articles for a special issue titled “Postcolonial Perspectives in Area Studies.”

Postcolonialism as a lens through which the globalizing world can be viewed and explored is one of the most controversial issues in the humanities and social sciences. It has both enthusiastic endorsers and sworn opponents. For more than a half-century now, their disputes have mirrored the dynamic of the development of postcolonial discourse. In its approach to the legacy of colonialism and decolonization, the study of postcolonialism has taken on a new form under the influence of poststructuralism. The model of a final and universal divorce from the colonial past was replaced by the idea of a “multiplicity of histories” arising in varying territorial forms. Postcolonial discourse has fragmented, weakened in its global applicability, and been transformed into a plethora of local narratives.

With the rise of new social movements and the end of the Cold War, a new scheme of postcolonialism has appeared that brings together and interconnects the polycentric narratives. Postcolonialism is now being approached with a new kind of multicultural sensitivity. This new direction of research has resulted in a critical reinterpretation of historically and spatially fixed forms of inequality, oppression and exclusion, with the goal of overcoming their consequences in the real world. The study of postcolonialism has broadened its attention to include post-communist nations, relations between East and West, and newly emerging power structures in the present world, among other topics. 

This special issue aims to conceptualize postcolonial theory from different disciplinary angles. It will focus on the various territorial contexts in which control, domination, and exclusion occur. Furthermore, it will seek to analyze the rise and development of social and political movements that are striving to deal with the mechanisms of power. In line with the territorial emphasis of Studia Territorialia, contributions should focus on North America, Europe, and post-Soviet Eurasia. However, studies of other regional contexts are welcome as well, provided they have a strong link to the regions covered by the journal. 

Topics may include, but are not limited to:
• Colonialism and modernization
• Colonialism in the Cold War era
• The Soviet Bloc as a colonial system
• Migration and mobility between metropolises and colonies
• Reshaping the relationship between the colonizing and the colonized
• Legacy of colonialism and colonial inertia as a sort of path-dependency
• Deconstruction of the colonial cultural legacy
• Postcolonial identities
• Self-colonization
• Memories of colonialism and decolonization
• Colonial nostalgia
• Colonialism as a trauma
• Coming to terms with the colonial past
• Decolonization of the public space and culture
• Discursive strategies and practices of colonialism and postcolonialism
• Postcolonialism as a political agenda
• Postcolonial discourse in international relations
• Postcolonialism and gender studies
• Postcolonial perspectives on racial issues
• Theories of postcolonialism

Articles should be in English and should ideally be 6,000 to 9,000 words long (excluding footnotes and abstract). Submissions should be sent to the journal’s editorial team at or uploaded via the Studia Territorialia journal management system. Authors should consult the submission guidelines on the journal’s website for further instructions and preferred style. All contributions will be subject to double-blind peer review. 

Abstract submission deadline: January 31, 2022.
Notification of status and next steps: February 10, 2022.
Article submission deadline: April 30, 2022.

Studia Territorialia is a leading Czech peer-reviewed academic journal focusing on area studies. It covers the history and the social, political, and cultural affairs of the nations of North America, Europe, and post-Soviet Eurasia in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The journal is published by the Institute of International Studies of Charles University, Prague. It is indexed in the SCOPUS, ERIH PLUS, EBSCO, DOAJ, and CEEOL databases and others. 

For further inquiries, please feel free to contact the editors.Contact Info: 

Lucie Filipová, Studia Territorialia executive editor

Contact Email:


Call for contributors: South American from European Contact through Independence

Now seeking contributors to a forthcoming two-volume encyclopedia on South American history from European contact through independence, to be published by ABC-CLIO under the editorship of Micheal Tarver and Carlos Márquez. Expressions of interest are welcome from graduate students, postdocs, professors, and public history professionals. 

A headword list has been determined by the editors and publisher, with entries ranging from regional Amerindian groups at European arrival to heroes and heroines of the independence movements. Although the work will be formatted in the traditional A-Z style, the entries will represent various themes found within South American history. Interested contributors can find the list of available entries at Suggestions for additional entry topics are welcomed.

Most individual entries will be 1000 words. All Contributors will receive free access to the e-book version of the Work. Contributors who write five 1000-word entries will also receive one (1) complimentary set of the printed edition of the Work (estimated retail cost $225) in lieu of a monetary payment.

Deadline for this round of contributions is March 15, 2022. Additional calls for contributors will appear thereafter.

Questions concerning the project should be sent to Micheal Tarver at

Contact Info: Dr. H. Micheal TarverProfessor of HistoryArkansas Tech University407 West Q Street – WPN 244-BRussellville, AR 72801-2222 

Contact Email:

The New American Antiquarian, no. 1

Call for Papers

The New American Antiquarian (NAA), a new peer-reviewed journal dedicated to reconstructing the hemispheric American past to 1825 A.D. through the publication of critically edited source material, invites submissions for its inaugural issue.

NAA welcomes submissions of previously unpublished manuscript transcriptions; new English translations; collations of printed material; guides or catalogs that aid in the interpretation of source collections; and scholarship that interrogates the American archive. NAA is committed to expanding the source base and scholarly horizon of early American history and literature to reflect the hemisphere’s plural linguistic traditions.

We encourage submissions of sources or scholarship written in Spanish or French, though all publications will eventually be printed in English. The journal is additionally committed to publishing work that originates from a broad swathe of humanistic disciplines as well as from outside the academy.

The NAA envisions itself as a platform that enriches current intellectual discussions of historical evidence by fostering a new scholarly discourse around the reception and antiquation of ideas, practices, and institutions. We are interested in generating conversation around the intersection of—and slippage between—history, the archive, and knowledge of the past. Our mission entails a wider consideration of early America within a vast intellectual tradition of transatlantic antiquity.

We welcome submissions of up to 10,000 words (excluding footnotes)/ 14,000 words (including footnotes). All submissions should be formatted in Chicago style. NAA intends to publish its issues in PDF format. Authors are welcome to submit digital supplements, such as XML files or photographs of archival documents, for parallel distribution through NAA’s platform. The editors will anonymize submissions for the peer-review process. We hope to develop an accessible online submission platform in the near future.

NAA is edited by Peter Jakob Olsen-Harbich ( and Simeon A. Simeonov ( All submissions should be sent to

We are also interested in expanding our editorial board, reviewer pool, and potentially in forming a relationship with an academic press. We welcome all interested readers to contact us via the institutional email above, and to follow us on Twitter: @new_antiquarian

CFP: Forum on Early-Modern Empires and Global Interactions (FEEGI) biennial conference

The Forum on Early-Modern Empires and Global Interactions (FEEGI) invites paper proposals for its fourteenth biennial conference, to be held online February 24-26, 2022.

FEEGI conferences investigate the histories of places and people touched directly and indirectly, advantageously or catastrophically, by the process of enhanced global interactions that commenced in the fifteenth century. Our conferences provide an opportunity for exchanges about the circumstances, causes, and consequences of increased global interactions in the early modern period (roughly 1450 to 1850). We welcome proposals exploring political, economics, and socio-cultural interactions from a variety of fields and perspectives. We encourage interdisciplinary approaches. 

One hallmark of FEEGI conferences is the creation of a space for comparative thinking and intellectual exchange among scholars across traditional temporal, geographic, and imperial boundaries. To promote such dialogue the Program Committee configures panels to make deep thematic connections, and all our sessions are plenary. 

FEEGI members may submit proposals for individual papers no later than 30 August 2021 on (Details on membership can be found on ). Submissions should include a 200-400 word abstract as well as a brief (1-2 page) C.V. We welcome submissions from advanced graduate students.  

Papers accepted for the program will be eligible for consideration for the FEEGI/Itinerario article prize, with the winning paper receiving a “fast-track” to publication in Itinerario: Journal of Imperial and Global Interactions by the end of 2022. For those interested in the prize, full-length articles will be submitted to a prize committee before the conference.  Further details, including the timeline, will be available once the program is finalized.  

FEEGI 2022 Program Committee:

Karen Auman, Brigham Young University

Ernesto Bassi, Cornell University

Susan Mokhberi, Rutgers University

Wensheng Wang, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Matt Romaniello, FEEGI president, Weber State University 

Contact Email:


Extended Deadline CFP: “Contagious Connections: Epidemic Disease in Vast Early America and the Atlantic World.”

by Claire Gherini, re-posted from H-Atlantic 14/06/2021

The Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture invites applications from scholars across academic disciplines for participation in a series of workshops dedicated to revisiting and rethinking the history and historiography of epidemics in Vast Early America and the Atlantic World. Co-chaired by Ryan Kashnanipour (University of Arizona) and Claire Gherini (Fordham University), “Contagious Connections” is a series of six works-in-progress seminars that will take place, online, between January and May 2022 in which participants will convene to discuss and workshop pre-circulated papers. We invite proposals for unpublished, chapter-length pieces on epidemics in Vast Early America/The Atlantic World for those workshops. 

Epidemics were a foundational force in the early history of the Americas and the larger Atlantic World. Yet their interdisciplinary and comparative analysis has often been restricted by the imperial and chronological priorities of these regions’ subfields as well as older biomedical and demographic approaches to the study of disease. Rather than rehashing whether acquired immunity destined Native Americans to extirpation and Africans for slavery in the Americas, this series proceeds from the idea that epidemics are epistemological and ontological forces: they have a historical materiality but become epidemics of a particular disease when historical actors collectively decide to name and treat them as such. We invite paper submissions that engage with epidemics and/or infectious diseases beyond their biological attributes. We are open to papers of many kinds, possible themes and questions might include:

  • The political and social ramifications, in particular times and places, of naming widespread infirmity an epidemic. How do such pronouncements and definitions work to mobilize resources? What populations do they render legible? Which figures and administrative bodies got to make these definitions?
  • What administrative differences between empires rendered such pronouncements and definitions easier to make and contest, as well as see in the archive?
  • How did the divergent temporalities of so-called crowd diseases’ (smallpox, yellow fever, measles for example) and those that are more chronic disorders (yaws, coco-bays, dropsy) shape official and quotidian responses to them?
  • Naming generalized infirmity an epidemic magnifies its visibility in the archive. Papers might explore the more quotidian types of infirmity that have been overlooked as a consequence and how they were managed and thought about by the communities affected by them.
  • Papers might use the uneven impact of different epidemics as a window onto the endemic nature of illness in the early modern Americas and underlying health disparities.
  • Sudden and widespread sickness tends to galvanize discovery of its modes of communication. To think about the materiality of epidemics, papers might focus on how these discoveries reconfigure mobility and daily habits of living. Or they might use authorities’ efforts to regulate or outlaw quotidian practices of bodily health or sustenance to recover what are often overlooked materials and practices that are central to gendered and racialized economies of care.
  • Papers might explore the development of new forms mourning, internment, and memorialization that communities developed to reckon with the new scale of death created by an epidemic.

As we hope to see this series culminate in a community of scholars who might polish their works for collective publication in an edited collection, in summer 2022, should conditions allow, we may convene in-person in Washington D.C. for one week for a second round of workshops where participants will present and receive feedback on revised versions of their papers.

The original deadline for submissions has been extended. Interested individuals are asked to submit an abstract no longer than 500 words and abbreviated CV no longer than three pages by JULY 15, 2021:

For more information please go to:

Publication: De la Nouvelle-Néerlande à New York, by Anne-Claire Faucquez

L’histoire de la colonie de New York ne peut être dissociée de celle de l’esclavage. En effet, l’esclavage fut implanté dès l’arrivée des premiers colons néerlandais en 1624 et se développa parallèlement à la colonie, s’étendant dans les régions rurales autour de l’île de Manhattan et s’ancrant à tous les niveaux de cette jeune société coloniale. Si le statut de l’esclave n’était pas encore véritablement codifié à l’époque néerlandaise, il le fut progressivement après la conquête anglaise de 1664 jusqu’en 1712, date de la première révolte d’esclaves sur le continent nord-américain. Ce cadre législatif qui liait indéfectiblement le statut servile à la couleur de peau façonna les mentalités et renforça les préjugés raciaux que les colons avaient hérités de la Renaissance. Or, la rigidité de ce cadre ne put se conformer parfaitement à la réalité de l’environnement new-yorkais qui réclamait des esclaves une grande mobilité et une certaine autonomie et qui tolérait, depuis la période néerlandaise, la présence d’une communauté de Noirs libres, laquelle permit de conforter les esclaves dans leur volonté de s’affirmer culturellement et de résister à leur condition. Ainsi l’esclavage fut loin d’être cette « institution particulière » chère au Sud mais était répandu sur l’ensemble du territoire américain depuis ses origines.

LeBlanc on Ogborn, ‘The Freedom of Speech: Talk and Slavery in the Anglo-Caribbean World’ by H-Net Reviews

Miles Ogborn. The Freedom of Speech: Talk and Slavery in the Anglo-Caribbean World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2019. x + 309 pp. $35.00 (paper), ISBN 978-0-226-65768-4; $105.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-226-65592-5. 

Reviewed by Dylan LeBlanc (La Lumiere School) Published on H-Atlantic (May, 2021) Commissioned by Bryan Rindfleisch (Marquette University) 

Printable Version:

The Stakes and Sounds of Talk in Atlantic Slavery

This book is a crafty reinterpretation of the spaces of Atlantic slavery as soundscapes of power. In general, Miles Ogborn argues that “talk”—the aggregate and discrete dynamics of speech and speaking—both reinforced and had the potential to undermine slave societies. Much of the book develops the distinct dimensions of “talk” as an analytical category, one that helps reveal and explain many of the more subtle yet salient aspects of white supremacy and organized violence that defined Atlantic slavery. In this sense, Ogborn joins a number of important works that have rethought slavery through vital themes: for example, Vincent Brown’s view of slavery and death (The Reaper’s Garden: Death and Power in the World of Atlantic Slavery [2008]), Terri L. Snyder’s deconstruction of suicide (The Power to Die: Slavery and Suicide in British North America [2015]), Kevin Dawson’s study of “acquatic culture” in the African diaspora (Undercurrents of Power: Aquatic Culture in the African Diaspora [2021]), and Neil Roberts’s interpretation of “freedom as marronnage” (Freedom as Marronage [2015]). And Ogborn adds another interpretive tool to which historians might turn as they examine slavery’s myriad contexts, which itself is a valuable contribution.

A geographer by training, Ogborn is attuned from the outset to “the relationship between speech and space” and the “microgeographies of speech.” This leads him to consider the ways talking is local and to reconstruct when possible the “courtrooms, taverns, and parlors, as well as the coffeehouses, parliaments, and doorways” in which speech took place, the “words spoken in confidence, overheard through windows, or stated out in the fields in front of everyone” (p. 20). It is in this context of slavery that talk always conveyed politics and power relations charged with racialized violence, and claims to domination or claims to freedom. Further, in considering the enslaved populations of Barbados and Jamaica, Ogborn charts a new course between two common interpretive emphases in the historiography: on the one hand, silences enforced through oppression and, on the other, “the astonishing and inventive proliferation of creolized sonic forms,” such as creole languages, folk music, and the voices of enslaved preachers (p. 28). Herein lies an important contribution. Ogborn’s sounds almost always arise in moments of encounter between the enslaved and the enslaver, humanizing and animating both in insightful ways. In Ogborn’s terms, “who can speak and what they might say is a crucial question for the history of slavery in the Caribbean,” and this emphasis on possibility, on ability, involves a critical grappling with the structures of movement, thought, and agency at the points where the oppressed and the oppressor met (p. 34).

The book is organized in five chapters, with a meditative introduction and conclusion. Though Ogborn does speak to change over time in some areas, the structure is mostly thematic, which will perhaps enhance its usefulness and adaptability as an interpretive tool with which to approach other contexts of Atlantic slavery. Ogborn begins with oaths as a window into understanding the dynamics of talk in slave societies. The act of giving one’s word was fundamental to Anglo-European legal regimes for centuries and the English were no different when first colonizing the Caribbean, but as Ogborn describes, the presence of a racialized and enslaved population changed the stakes and the meanings of oath taking in the Caribbean. In law, only free white men could make oaths and give evidence in court, thereby excluding the voices of the enslaved and raising troubling questions about the need for enslaved testimony in criminal investigations. Further, the negotiations regarding oaths sometimes became as important as the commitments one made when giving an oath. For this, Ogborn turns to the treaties that heralded an end to the Maroon Wars that raged in Jamaica throughout the 1730s. On the British side, the conflict ended and the Maroons gained conditional freedom by treaty; the Maroons, however, insisted that the British also engaged in an oath-taking ritual that the Maroons recognized as binding: a mingling and drinking of blood and rum. By consenting to “swallow the oath,” the British in their negotiations with the Maroons participated in a legal and cultural form that harkened back to similar oath-taking practices in some west African societies (p. 47). Ogborn elaborates with his descriptions of such practices among the Asante peoples and discusses Edward Long’s own treatment of “Coromantin” oaths, elements of which the Maroons might have carried on.

Ogborn’s subsequent analyses echo many of the core themes evoked in the study of oaths. In chapter 2, “The Deliberative Voice: Politics, Speech, and Liberty,” for example, Ogborn adds a new wrinkle to the now canonical understanding that slavery heightened the sensitivity of white colonists to their own prerogatives and liberty. Interpreting the often indignant approach of the Jamaican assembly to relations with Whitehall in the light of colonial paranoia regarding slave rebellion, Ogborn writes: “Freeborn Englishmen … would never be slaves if they spoke out to defend their liberties. This view, in turn, shaped the ways in which the voices of the enslaved were heard and misheard as they discussed and protested slavery’s violent oppressions” (p. 105). In investigations of supposed conspiracies, Jamaican slaveholders wanted to demonstrate that the enslaved had in fact conspired, that they had used the “deliberative voice” proper to political action (in assemblies and the like) to plot against their enslavement. White colonists thereby stubbornly asserted their own liberties and the speech practices they used onto the actions of the enslaved, whose speech practices they never fully understood, which created a tense environment of mutual suspicion and resentment. Among the enslaved, this mishearing or selective hearing was often paid for in blood.

While Ogborn relies much on the tensions between the enslaved and the colonial regime in Jamaica and Barbados in his early chapters, later chapters include more elements of collaboration and exchange through speech across black and white communities. In the realm of botany, for example, talk about the medical value of plants between the enslaved and free helped produce botanical and medical knowledge. Ogborn relates instances in which the enslaved healed ailing planters, accompanied amateur botanists like Thomas Thistlewood on foraging expeditions in the woods, or contributed to the development of early botanical gardens on the sugar islands. A similar process of exchange through talk occurred in the spiritual domain, in which the proselytizing work of both Anglicans and non-conformists in the Caribbean hinged on speaking with the enslaved. In religion, however, talk was often less useful than in botany. For instance, Ogborn employs the reflections of the Moravian missionary Zacharias George Caries to illustrate the collaboration but also ambiguity of slave society speech, as Caries bemoaned the fact that the enslaved could “imitate our language without feeling it in their heart” (p. 163). In this way, speech and talk evoked the ultimate incommensurability of the enslaver and enslaved worlds in the Caribbean. Hardened racial attitudes, even among those British who never stepped foot in a slave society, often rendered the enslaved permanent “others,” no matter what kind of speech they spoke. Ogborn’s interpretation of the free black Jamaican poet Francis Williams illustrates this well. Whereas Williams drew a distinction between a “white negro” and a “black negro” on the basis of speech, David Hume considered Williams a “parrot,” unable to comprehend black eloquence even within European aesthetic paradigms. 

The range of topics that Ogborn details all hang together under the framework of talk-as-power, with power understood as multidirectional, leaving even the most oppressed a modicum of agency to seize the means of shaping the world around them. For the enslaved in places like Jamaica, the most ubiquitous and iconic of these means, aside from violent resistance and rebellion, was linked closely to speech in the practice of obeah. Turning to the rituals, spells, incantations, and protections that black practitioners of obeah used, the enslaved might undermine slave society—for they certainly saw it this way. But as Ogborn recognizes, drawing on the important work of Diana Paton on the meanings of obeah in the age of European “enlightenment” (The Cultural Politics of Obeah: Religion, Colonialism, and Modernity in the Caribbean World [2015]), from the planter perspective, much of obeah was just words, even if it still worried them: for “obeah’s orality [was] both everything and nothing” (p. 160). In much of the book, then, Ogborn maximizes this ambiguity of speech practices in slave societies to useful effect.

Throughout the book, Ogborn also confronts the evidentiary problem at the core of all studies of slavery: the systems of power and violence designed to keep people in bondage but who also conspired to obscure many of the traces that the enslaved left behind on their own terms. Ogborn’s solution is less about “reading against the grain” or “between the lines” or “listening for silences” as it is about identifying traces of speech left in plain sight, or reading old sources in new ways. In general, Ogborn succeeds in revealing the many ways speech demarcated lines between freedom and slavery, and how talking blurred or crossed these lines with great frequency. He deconstructs an eclectic mix of topics to do this—oaths, formal politics, botany and medicine, spiritual practices—through sources that, for the most part, will not be new to historians who have worked on Jamaica and the Anglo-Caribbean. Long’s History of Jamaica (1774) and Long’s papers in the British Library, for example, do a significant amount of the evidentiary lifting for Ogborn in some chapters. However, Ogborn’s heavy reliance on theory, and at times tedious rendition of the theoretical literature, might frustrate some readers. The book devotes almost as much space to discussing other people’s arguments as it does to Ogborn’s own evidence. For example, the work of Bruno Latour is discussed in each chapter and to excessive depth, and with often greater critical attention than Ogborn pays to the richness (and fraught complexity) of Long’s writings.

Historians will without a doubt take inspiration from Ogborn’s method and interpretation of “talk,” and future studies of the sonic dimensions of the Atlantic world will follow his cues. As a work situated within the historiography of Atlantic slavery, however, the flexibility of Ogborn’s category “talk” does perhaps less original work than it claims to. The book’s thematic organization means that Ogborn addresses a slightly different dimension of talk and speech in each chapter, but orality in most cases tends only to reveal the fundamental power dynamics of slavery that historians already understand well. Talk and speech may very well be one of the most effective frameworks through which to study slavery, perhaps better than most frameworks, but Ogborn does not spend much time effectively making this case. Indeed, in the conclusion he writes that this “book does not claim that the history of slavery can be reduced to a history of orality, but considering talk as practice, or as many differentiated practices, can offer a way of rethinking that history” (p. 233). This is fair enough as a claim but also represents a missed opportunity. Too often the reader is left making extrapolations and connections between the many “differentiated practices” of talk between the chapters and/or case studies through implication rather than by following an overarching specific argument. In other words, what Ogborn reveals about the world of Atlantic slavery itself might only go as deep as the reader’s own prior knowledge of that world, and those revelations may not always be made apparent in the book. It seems plausible, then, that Ogborn might have developed a stronger “through-line” of argument about talk in Caribbean slave societies while also avoiding reducing slavery to mere orality.

Citation: Dylan LeBlanc. Review of Ogborn, Miles, The Freedom of Speech: Talk and Slavery in the Anglo-Caribbean World. H-Atlantic, H-Net Reviews. May, 2021. 


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License

Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search