Riveting Bits and Pieces: Literary and Architectural Aesthetics in the Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery of Nantes

CGS Brown Bag Lecture Series
Oct 03, 2012
01:30 PM to 02:30 PM
402 Burrowes

Sophia Khadraoui, Department of French and Francophone Studies, Penn State

April 25, 2012: the Memorial to the abolition of slavery is inaugurated on the Quai de la Fosse in Nantes, France’s largest slave port in the eighteenth century. In the middle of the esplanade encrusted with 2,000 pieces of glass etched with the names and dates of Nantes’s slave ships, a large staircase leads the visitor beneath the dock. In this underground journey, the spectator discovers bits and pieces of eclectic texts –songs, poems, novels, historical testimonies and legislative texts– all engraved in an oversized glass wall. From Olympe de Gouges to Nelson Mandela to Toussaint Louverture, Martin Luther King and Bob Marley, these few lines, verses and articles compose an artistic patchwork that exhorts the spectator-actor to activate the fragmentary stimuli integrated within the memorial. By choreographing fragmentation, both on the literary and architectural levels, this memorial engages different cultures, historical figures, various languages and literary genres from four different continents and five different centuries. Beyond the history of slavery of Nantes, or even of France, it becomes a transnational, more global history of slavery that is presented to the spectator.

Sophia Khadraoui is a doctoral candidate in the French and Francophone Studies currently writing her dissertation entitled “Sculpted Memories: Commemorating the Abolition of Slavery in Metropolitan France through Monuments”. Her research interests include questions of race and identity and their repercussions in history and memory. She earned an M.A. in French and Francophone Studies from The Pennsylvania State University and another from La Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris III, in American Civilization and Postcolonial Literatures

This lecture is a part of the Center for Global Studies Brown Bag Graduate Lecture Series which focuses on interdisciplinary graduate research.

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