Free from Particular Average by Insurrection: Finance Capital, Subject Formation, and the Practice of Archival Demystification

Pyar Seth, Johns Hopkins University
Alexandre White, Johns Hopkins University

In this piece, we explore a form of anti-colonial resistance that has gone relatively unnoticed by social theorists — insurrections aboard slaving ships. Research on slaving ships often presents researchers with an abyssal beginning (Drabinski 2019). The voices of the enslaved, their philosophies, and their experiences have been erased, save for the corpus of biographies of those who survived both the middle passage and enslavement.?As scholarship in Subaltern Studies, Black Studies, and more have attested to, the forces of colonial knowledge and racist epistemes remain embedded in both the archive and in our methods. Amid these pervasive challenges, how can social theorists, represent, theorize, and contextualize anti-colonial action in ways the move beyond the scope of reading against the grain of the archive? Drawing on Gayatri Spivak, Saidiya Hartman, Franz Fanon, and Julian Go, we discuss how researchers can adopt novel perspectives and formulate questions that trouble the authority of colonial viewpoints, recognize the anxieties of colonial systems, and illuminate the systemic mobilizations needed to condemn anti-colonial action both at the sites of resistance and in the metropole through a practice that we term archival demystification. Over the course of this chapter, we outline the practice of archival demystification in further detail by working through the logics of financial speculation and the contours of insurance and the slave trade. ? ?

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 Presented in Session 87. Racial Capitalism & the Making of Class