Saidiya Hartman on Lose Your Mother: A Journey Across the Atlantic Slave Route.
Journeying along a slave route in Ghana, following the trail of captives from the hinterland to the Atlantic coast, Saidiya Hartman retraces the history of the Atlantic slave trade from the fifteenth to the twentieth century and reckons with the blank slate of her own genealogy. There were no survivors of Hartman's lineage, nor far-flung relatives in Ghana of whom she had come in search. She traveled to Ghana in search of strangers. The most universal definition of the slave is a stranger torn from kin and country. To lose your mother is to suffer the loss of kin, to forget your past, and to inhabit the world as a stranger.
Saidiya Hartman is a specialist in African American literature and history.
Professor Hartman's first book, Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America is an erudite and subtle exploration of the intersections of enslavement, gender, desire, and the making of liberal reason in the United States. Worked through an engagement with a variety of cultural materials - slave narratives, song and dance, legal texts, journals, diaries, and narratives - Hartman explores the unstable institution of slave power.
Her most recent book Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route is, as she puts it, an exercise in literary fieldwork. It lyrically confronts the disturbing relationships among memory, representation, and narrative. She focuses on the "non-history" of the slave, the way in which the unnameable catastrophe of slavery erased any conventional modality for writing an intelligible past. Weaving her own biography into an imaginative historical construction, she explores and evokes the non-spaces of black experience - the experience through which the African captive became a slave, became a non-person, became alienated from person-hood.