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Fabio Santos: Mind the Archival Gap: Critical Fabulation as Decolonial Method. [Abstract]

This article tackles a question long deemed impossible and unthinkable: how can sociology come to grips with the colonial past and present, situating the uprooting and re-composition of families and biographies in the longue durée of enslavement and its aftermaths? As centuries-long and continent-spanning processes of violence, subjugation, exploitation, extermination, and alienation, enslavement and the trade in enslaved people have dramatically transformed social structures, including kinship ties, across the Atlantic and beyond. Seeking to reconcile sociology and slavery studies, I retrieve forgotten pieces of the sociological and abolitionist archive to engage with historical and artistic counter-narratives challenging not only white-washed European self-understandings, but also the standard methodologies and epistemologies upholding them. Unapologetically undisciplined, this article hence follows two interrelated decolonial strategies: besides conceiving of uncovering and closely reading long-forgotten foundational sociological works as a decolonial device challenging knowledge canonized by hegemonic positions in the North, I also introduce Saidiya Hartman’s literary-historical method of critical fabulation as a decolonial method. I do so via a sociological reading of La Vaughn Belle’s contemporary audiovisual artwork In the Place of Shadows. Mobilizing her childhood memories of racism and objectification on the US mainland, the Crucian artist traces and imagines the forced displacement of Victor and Alberta, two half-siblings from the Caribbean island of Saint Croix who were caged and exhibited as part of the 1905 colonial exhibition in Copenhagen.

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