A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘slavery

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • D-Brief shares rare video of beaked whales on the move.
  • Dangerous Minds notes that someone has actually begun selling unauthorized action figures of Trump Administration figures like Bannon and Spencer.
  • Language Log looks at a linguistic feature of Emma Watson’s quote, her ending it with a preposition.
  • Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen considers, originally for Bloomberg View, if Trump could be seen as a placebo for what ails America.
  • The New APPS Blog takes a Marxist angle on the issue of big data, from the perspective of (among other things) primitive accumulation.
  • The Search reports on the phenomenon of the Women’s History Month Wikipedia edit-a-thon, aiming to literally increase the representation of notable women on Wikipedia.
  • Towleroad notes the six men who will be stars of a new Fire Island reality television show.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy finds some merit in Ben Carson’s description of American slaves as immigrants. (Some.)
  • Window on Eurasia argues that Belarusians are beginning to mobilize against their government and suggests they are already making headway.

[LINK] “African rulers of India: That part of our history we choose to forget”

My thanks to Facebook’s Conrad for linking to Adrija Roychowdhury’s fantastic article in Indian Express looking at an overlooked element of African history in India, of Africans in positions of sovereign power.

“When your family has been ruling for hundreds of years, people still call you by the title of Nawab,” says Nawab Reza Khan, tenth Nawab of Sachin as he traces his family’s regal history. Reza Khan currently works as a lawyer and lives in the city of Sachin in Gujarat. He says his ancestors came from Abyssinia (present day Ethiopia in East Africa) as part of the forces of Babur. Eventually, they conquered the fort at Janjira and later occupied Sachin and ruled over their own kingdoms.

The Nawab of Sachin is a personified remnant of a glorious African past in India. Africans have, for centuries been a part of Indian society. While the slave trade from Africa to America and Europe is well documented, the eastward movement of African slaves to India has been left unexplored.

The systematic transportation of African slaves to India started with the Arabs and Ottomans and later by the Portuguese and the Dutch in the sixteenth -seventeenth centuries. Concrete evidence of African slavery is available from the twelfth-thrirteenth centuries, when a significant portion of the Indian subcontinent was being ruled by Muslims.

There is, however, a major difference between African slavery in America and Europe and that in India. There was far greater social mobility for Africans in India. In India, they rose along the social ladder to become nobles, rulers or merchants in their own capacities. “In Europe and America, Africans were brought in as slaves for plantation and industry labour. In India on the other hand, African slaves were brought in to serve as military power,” says Dr Suresh Kumar, Professor of African studies in Delhi University.

These were elite military slaves, who served purely political tasks for their owners. They were expensive slaves, valued for their physical strength. The elite status of the African slaves in India ensured that a number of them had access to political authority and secrets which they could make use of to become rulers in their own right, reigning over parts of India. They came to be known by the name of Siddis or Habshis (Ethiopians or Abyssinians). The term ‘Siddi’ is derived from North Africa, where it was used as a term of respect.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 12, 2016 at 9:30 pm

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • blogTO reports on the Union Station Holiday Market.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly writes about how she has fled toxic environments.
  • Centauri Dreams considers the next generation of observational astronomy with Alpha Centauri in mind.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze looks at how foreseeeable advances may mean that Proxima Centauri b’s atmosphere could soon by studied for indirect signs of life.
  • Far Outliers notes how, in the dying ways of the War of American Independence, British forces were setting slaves free.
  • Language Log shares Chinese science fiction writer Ken Liu’s thoughts about the Chinese language and Chinese literature.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money warns about the potential threat posed to indigenous peoples in the United States by the Trump Administration.
  • The LRB Blog considers the likely fates of Italy after Renzi.
  • The Planetary Society Blog describes the impending launch of a solar sail craft into orbit.
  • Savage Minds considers ways in which the different subfields of anthropology can more profitably interact, looking at scholarship and politics both.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy argues that the American left should make the Trump Administration cause to advocate for a renewed federalism.
  • Arnold Zwicky writes about the art of being camp and its selective deployments.

[URBAN NOTE] “George Brown College honours black community pioneers”

The Toronto Star‘s Alicja Siekierska reports on how two African-American migrants, escaped slaves, are now being honoured for their role in Toronto’s history.

Nearly 200 years ago, shortly after fleeing slavery in the United States using the Underground Railroad, Lucie and Thornton Blackburn became leaders in their newly adopted community in Toronto.

They helped construct the historic Little Trinity Anglican Church on King St., and Thornton established Toronto’s first cab company — a red-and-yellow horse-drawn carriage that seated four.

On Wednesday, George Brown College will honour the story of the Blackburns, naming a conference centre at their student residence, The George, after the courageous couple and unveiling a mural designed and painted by George Brown students.

“This goes beyond the incredible story of a couple fleeing slavery to seek freedom in Canada, building incredible community partnerships and opening up the doors to blacks in Toronto,” said Nikki Clarke, the president of the Ontario Black History Society.

“Their story runs parallel to many people’s stories: taking refuge, seeking safety, and trying to start over in a new country. It resonates with many.”

Written by Randy McDonald

November 9, 2016 at 9:30 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “From slave market to Olympic venue: variations of capitalist accumulation in the port of Rio de Janeiro”

Guilherme Leite Gonçalves and Sérgio Costa’s Open Democracy essay looks at the changing functions of the port of Rio de Janeiro. In some of its broad outlines, the story that it tells is familiar.

The port district of Rio de Janeiro is one of the areas most affected by urban interventions connected to the August 2016 Olympics. Until very recently, business groups, politicians, investors and the mainstream media saw the port district as a devalued and degraded space, isolated from the rest of the city. In fact, the entire region had low market value and was of little interest for real estate investments, commercial transactions and services. Even the port itself was of little significance when compared to other Brazilian ports. Therefore, the region was located “outside” the process of capitalist accumulation.

This situation changed completely in November 2009. About a month after Rio de Janeiro was chosen to host the Olympics, the Porto Maravilha project became public. This project catalyzed actions and economic, political and cultural expectations, restructuring the entire port district in order to create value.

Contrary to appearances, this phenomenon is not new. It is a new venue for a history that repeats itself. In its various stages, the port of Rio de Janeiro was marked by different landmarks of capitalist dynamic that both repelled and attracted spaces, processes and market relations, according to the needs of accumulation. This is a history marked by actors, forces and social pressures alternating in a continuous movement of commodification, decommodification and re-commodification – of people, goods and activities.

Since Rosa Luxemburg, in fact, Marxist political economists have realized that the accumulation of capital is not limited to a purely economic process between capitalists and workers in the production of surplus value. Seeing as only a relative portion of the surplus value can be appropriated in this internal transit, the system must make use of a non-capitalist “outside” to completely appropriate it.

Accordingly, the system makes use of explicit non-economic violence, including colonial or imperial policies, dispossessions, bloody legislation etc. There is, in other words, a repeated primitive accumulation throughout the history of capitalism. This repetition is required by capitalist expansion itself, which must commodify not yet commodified spaces in order to develop.

The various historical stages of this phenomenon are evident in the port district of Rio de Janeiro, as this space is incorporated in and uncoupled from a process that transforms socially constructed spaces into merchandise.

From its creation until the nineteenth century, the port took part in the classical patterns of primitive accumulation by integrating Brazil into world capitalism through the outflow of sugar, then gold and coffee, in addition to the inflow of manufactured goods and a contingent of about two million Africans that were kidnapped, enslaved and traded. This port received the highest number of enslaved Africans in the entire American continent. The right to provide such service was restricted to a private contractor: the Governor’s brother.

However, since its beginnings, the physical space of the port was itself integrated into various forms of accumulation. The first major traffic increase took place in the early seventeenth century and was connected to the outflow of sugar. In 1618, this traffic led Governor Rui Vaz Pinto to publish a legal decree establishing the use of black slaves to load and unload ships. It was clearly a mechanism meant to take over the space to create value, as only slaveholders were able to load goods in the port. This decree also represented the beginning of regular stevedoring services and established their legal system, namely the privilege or monopoly, since the right to provide such service was restricted to a private contractor: the Governor’s brother.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 15, 2016 at 8:09 pm

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • blogTO lists some of the most dangerous bus routes on the TTC, at least from the perspective of criminal activities.
  • The Broadside Blog lauds the very tangibility of vinyl.
  • Centauri Dreams considers SETI search strategies.
  • Crooked Timber looks at the politics of hair in slavery societies.
  • D-Brief considers LISA, the space-based gravitational wave observatory.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes a Chinese proposal to launch a Hubble-like telescope into orbit.
  • The LRB Blog examines the fragile economy built by refugee entrepreneurs in Greece.
  • Marginal Revolution notes the predominance of women in technical education in Sweden.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer can’t understand the insanely self-destructive fiscal policies of West Virginia, cutting necessary state spending while subsidizing big business.
  • Spacing Toronto’s John Lorinc is skeptical of the idea that progress will be made on regional transit given the massive confusion.

[LINK] “Tracing Slaves to Their African Homelands”

National Geographic‘s Andrew Lawler reports on technological advances, including DNA, which are allowing researchers to discover the origins of slave populations throughout the Atlantic world.

“This will change our understanding of population and migration histories,” says Hannes Schroeder, a biological anthropologist at the University of Copenhagen. “What was just potential is now being fulfilled.”

One example comes from a 17th century cemetery on the Dutch side of the Caribbean island of St. Martin. When archaeologists excavated the site in 2010, they noticed filed teeth in the skulls of two men and a woman. The three individuals were between 25 and 40 years old when they died in the late 1600s.

Since teeth filing was a common practice in sub-Saharan Africa, it was a good bet that the individuals were enslaved Africans brought to the colony in the days of sugar plantations.

Just five years ago, that would have been the end of the story. An attempt to extract DNA from the skeletons to learn more about their identity would have been quixotic, since hot and humid weather degrades genetic material.

“These were badly preserved,” said Schroeder. “They had been laying under a Caribbean beach for four hundred years.” By contrast, biologists in 2012 readily sequenced the entire genome from Otzi, the frozen “ice man” who died in the Alps five thousand years ago.

After months of careful work, however, Schroeder’s team was able to extract DNA from the St. Martin individuals using a new procedure called whole-genome capture. Devised at Stanford University in California, this technique concentrates the degraded genes, providing enough material to sequence.

By comparing the results with a database from modern-day Africans, the researchers determined that all three people came from different parts of that continent. One of the men likely came from what is today northern Cameroon, while the other man and the woman may have originated in Ghana or Nigeria to the south.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 8, 2016 at 8:30 pm