Slave Trade, Witchcraft, Art: Material and Spiritual Histories of the Afro-Atlantic
In the first half of the eighteenth century, the Inquisition of Lisbon and the civil authorities of Saint Domingue each arrested and detained an African amulet maker. At the center of the two affairs were the empowered bundles the two men composed, turning mostly European esoteric material into empowered objects of Afro-Atlantic agency in the hopes to gain control over their lived circumstances.
This lecture considers how these empowered objects bear witness in their composition, use, and afterlives in the archives to the multivalent connections that the slave trade engendered between Europeans and Africans along the two continents’ coasts, and beyond, in the Americas. They enjoin us to think anew about the spiritual and material histories of the Atlantic world as shared domains between Europeans and Africans, and to consider the entangled trajectories of slave trade, witchcraft, and art.
Cécile Fromont is a professor in the history of art department at Yale University. Her writing and teaching focus on the visual, material, and religious culture of Africa and Latin America with a special emphasis on the early modern period (ca 1500-1800), on the Portuguese-speaking Atlantic World, and on the slave trade.