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1 - History and Testimony at the House of Slaves

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 March 2022

Ferdinand De Jong
Affiliation:
University of East Anglia
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Summary

The House of Slaves at Gorée Island was listed as a World Heritage site in 1978, one year before Auschwitz concentration camp. This chapter examines the process of heritagization of the House of Slaves as one of the African sites for the commemoration of the slave trade. Adopting Michael Rothberg’s perspective on multidirectional memory, it demonstrates how the project of the House of Slaves was indebted to the recognition of the Holocaust as a global trauma: the commemoration of the slave trade is in several ways entangled with the commemoration of the Holocaust. But from Senegal’s independence onwards, the House of Slaves was also inflected by a vision of Negritude. The first curator of the House of Slaves, Joseph Ndiaye, gave it a global significance through his performances as ‘witness’ to the slave trade. By giving testimony, Joseph Ndiaye claimed an epistemic space for the articulation of Blackness. He simultaneously introduced the figure of the witness to the genre of the memorial museum and reclaimed the African legacy of orality against the Occidental epistemology of history. As embodiment of a legacy of the project for human rights, Joseph Ndiaye also claimed this museum as an African project of emancipation.

Type
Chapter
Information
Decolonizing Heritage
Time to Repair in Senegal
, pp. 39 - 72
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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