Black Fugitivity and Slavery/Surveillance Archives in the Digital Era

Crystal Eddins, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

In the time since sociologist and activist Abdul Alkalimat recognized at the turn of the new millennium that “the virtualization of the Black experience, is the basis for the next stage of our academic discipline,” the digital turn has facilitated online platform development to house large quantities of archival records on slavery and resistance in the African Atlantic diaspora. Digital technologies also connect activists, including Black Studies scholars, who share information, rally around important issues, and analyze societal events in real time. This paper frames Black Studies as a field of fugitivity – flight from oppressive modes of intellectual thought – that is concerned with the study of actual runaway slaves – maroons – amidst an era of digitally-based research and black radical activism. Scholars using digital resources must be attentive to the ways technological apparatuses can reify the anti-blackness embedded in historical archives such as runaway slave advertisements; similarly, contemporary activists must also be wary of the ways pervasive technological advances can be weaponized against black people, perhaps using ideas about historical marronnage and broader ideas of fugitivity as guideposts. I juxtapose two temporally disparate elements of the Black Radical Tradition, historical marronnage and present-day black radical activism, within the context of the digital humanities turn in Black Studies and the deepening of surveillance measures in modern society. Drawing on the realities of historical marronnage, I posit employing notions of black fugitivity as a uniquely Black Studies approach for scholars and activists to recognize oppositional consciousness and black agency embedded in data sources and technological platforms otherwise marked by slavery, racial oppression, and death.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 53. Decolonizing Methodologies