Refuse Bodies, Disposable Lives: A history of the Human and the Transatlantic Slave Trade
This talk considers the precarious lives and lingering deaths of what European slave traders called “refuse” slaves — African captives who were refused at purchase or who survived the Middle Passage but died before they could be sold in Atlantic ports. This topic arose during Fuentes’ confrontation with an archive that mentioned or referred — in the abstract — to hundreds of thousands of people who died in the process of the slave trade, but who have been taken for granted in the historical and theoretical accounts of slavery, theories of precarity, and human liminality. The talk dwells on these people and bodies, and the ways in which the production of “the raw material of slaves” as laborers and property also rendered humans as “waste” — the collateral damage of the capitalist regime of early modern slavery. In this new project, Fuentes contemplates the conditions of “refuse slaves” in the archive and the consequences of this category of human to our understanding of capitalism, slavery, histories and theories of the human, and the origins of black disposability.
Professor Marissa Fuentes is an Associate Professor in the Department of History and the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University.