Author Biography

Srividhya Swaminathan is the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies in the St. John's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at St. John's University. Her research interests in slavery studies and the eighteenth-century have produced a monograph, two edited collections, and several articles.


“Women, Slavery, and the Archive: Innovations in Slavery Studies and Contemporary Connections”

Early scholarship on slavery, abolition, and the British empire largely ignored the contribution of women of any race to the African Institution. British women who participated in boycotts, produced literary texts against African enslavement, and did the legwork of circulating petitions were relegated to footnotes until well into the twentieth century when women scholars began to create space in the canon for the unrecognized or under-recognized women writers. These new avenues of research evolved through decades to become more inclusive, more critical, and more ground-breaking in bringing the past into the present. I identify four important shifts in our understanding of British enslavement and abolition over the long eighteenth century: 1. recognition of (white) women’s work in the abolitionist campaigns; 2. recognition of the labor of enslaved women and their contributions to resistance; 3. recognition of women’s involvement in supporting as well as resisting slavery; 4. recognition of the erasure of people, and the violence of the archive that only validates recorded experiences. Recovering these various kinds of erasures has opened possibilities for new methods of analysis. The legacy of this work not only opened slavery studies to new methodologies of gender and intersectional analyses, but it also opened the archive to productive critique. The new avenues for slavery studies recovers the voices of silenced women and empowers scholar who wish to challenge established narratives. By reviewing the scholarly legacy of transatlantic slavery studies, we can also better appreciate the influence on the immediate present. Contemporary work on Black Lives Matter (abolition), 1619 Project, and the attempts to ban critical race theory address the importance of the transitions in scholarship and how their legacies can reshape the future.