African Atlantic Cultural Encounters

Principal Investigator: Dr Fionnghuala Sweeney (American Literature, Newcastle University)


African Atlantic Cultural Encounters (AAC) moves towards transnational histories and memories of slavery and colonialism. It hopes to analyse the role of expressive culture in mediating memories of black cultural and political encounters with and in Europe, and in particular the role of the visual, dramatic and literary arts in instituting debate around critical citizenship. In the context of late 20th century responses to the history of enslavement and colonialism from former European slave-holding and slave-trading nations, it aims to facilitate the movement of multiple memories of slavery, post-slavery and empire across borders, thereby enabling public debate around questions of cultural citizenship not only in the UK, the Netherlands and France, but also in Germany, Scandinavia and Ireland, where the historical significance and cultural consequences of the slave trade and its aftermath have yet to be fully addressed. Concentrating on contemporary cultural responses to often difficult and historically contested encounters, the project will bring together four stakeholder groups that often work in isolation from one another: academics, artists, curators and black civic and community groups.

Research Questions:

  • How effective are European museums and memorials in generating public spaces in which the histories of slavery, emancipation, empire and their aftermaths may be encountered and engaged in?
  • What role do art and memory play in fostering political and civic engagement through debates around cultural citizenship locally, nationally and Europe-wide?
  • Can mobility of art, memory and people – enable the emergence of a multistranded understanding of the regional, national and transnational complexity of the European relationship to slavery, empire and their aftermaths that incorporates the history of former imperial and slaveholding nations, and those with more indirect ties?
  • How might the growing relationship between memorialisation and tourism, in particular the ways in which new audiences encounter diasporic art and memory, inflect debates around cultural citizenship and the aesthetic politics of memory?