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Memories of the Slave Trade: Ritual and the Historical Imagination in Sierra Leone Paperback – April 8, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0226751320 ISBN-10: 0226751325 Edition: 1st

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Memories of the Slave Trade: Ritual and the Historical Imagination in Sierra Leone + How Societies Remember (Themes in the Social Sciences) + Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (April 8, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226751325
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226751320
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,146,819 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"[This] is an extraordinary combination of ethnography and history that promises to reshape our understanding of West African cultures and the ways in which their insertion into history has affected such quotidian matters as gender and ideas about the person. Shaw provides an elegant analysis that shows how aspects of culture, such as ideas about secrecy and local concepts of agency, were fashioned under historical circumstances that are both transmitted and rethought in the present." - Ivan Karp, Emory University

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In a work that challenges recurring claims that Africans felt (and still feel) no sense of moral responsibility concerning the sale of slaves, Rosalind Shaw traces memories of the slave trade in Temne-speaking communities in Sierra Leone. While the slave-trading past is rarely remembered in explicit verbal accounts, it is often made vividly present in such forms as rogue spirits, diviners' visions, the imagery of divination techniques, and accounts of an invisible city of witches whose affluence was built on the theft of human lives.

Drawing on extensive fieldwork and archival research, Shaw argues that memories of the slave trade have shaped (and been reshaped by) experiences of colonialism, postcolonialism, and the country's ten-year rebel war. These ritual and visionary memories make hitherto invisible realities manifest, forming a prism through which past and present mutually configure each other.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By Alli Browning on January 12, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Yes, this book is about slavery, but it takes you on a different journey of how to look at Slavery. Based in Sierre Leon, this non-fiction ethnography provides a 20th century examination of how the memories of slavery still resonates within the minds and culture of those residing in areas largely affected by the slave trade of the 17-1800s. It addresses the concept of culture memory which, as an anthropologist, is very fascinating.
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 2, 2003
Format: Paperback
Rosalind Shaw has created a very well documented and meticulous research of divination by the Temne and Mende people of Sierra Leone, Africa. However, while the details and dialog are detailed, at times there is just too much information just to make a simple point, with a few too many examples. She does not make, in my opinion a strong case as to the relationship between the memories of slavery and colonialism and the language and customs of the divinators. Patterns and similiarities can be seen, but they could have been expressed in about 100 pages, with thorough sources and notes, instead of the 300+ pages currently written. Shaw knows her stuff, but unless you are specializing in this field, you better learn to skim...the conclusion at the end of the chapters summarizes what takes her 20+ pages to defend.
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