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Professor Edward Rugemer, Yale University, joins History Professor Gunja SenGupta, Brooklyn College, for a conversation on SenGupta’s recent co-authored book Sojourners, Sultans, and Slaves: America and the Indian Ocean in the Age of Abolition and Empire (University of California Press, 2023). The book mines multinational archives to illuminate the Atlantic reverberations of U.S. mercantile projects, “free labor” experiments, and slaveholding in western Indian Ocean societies.
SenGupta and Awam Amkpa show how the discourses of poverty, kinship, and care could be adapted to defend servitude in different parts of the world, revealing the tenuous boundaries that such discourses shared with liberal contractual notions of freedom. An intercontinental cast of empire builders, slavers, and reformers, a “cotton queen” and courtesans, and fugitive “slaves” and concubines populates the pages, fleshing out on a granular level the interface between the personal, domestic, and international politics of “slavery in the East” in the age of empire.
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