UNESCO marks the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition on 23rd August each year. The aim of the day is to pay tribute to the men and women who, on the night of 22nd to 23rd August 1791, revolted against the system of slavery and started the Haitian Revolution. The Revolution initiated a process of change regarding slavery throughout the Americas.
SOAS University of London student Portia Owusu is currently studying for her doctorate. The subject of her research is the Politics of History and Representations of Slavery in Contemporary African-American and West African Literature.
What is it that got you first interested in your research topics?
“I became interested in African-American cultural history during secondary school when an English teacher introduced me to the work of Toni Morrison. It is this interest, which made me choose to study a degree in English and American literature. My course included a year in the States, and it was there I met a great professor, Maryemma Graham, who encouraged me to work on my interest as a PhD student.
“I am particularly interested in the subject of slavery, because it’s central to African-American history and part of my own history as a Ghanaian.”
How has being at SOAS helped your research?
“Being at SOAS has helped me think about different ways of reading history from African perspectives. I’ve also been encouraged to look at connections between cultures and traditions.”
It is possible to study the module Slavery in West Africa in the 19th and 20th Centuries on the MA African Studies, the MA History, and the MA in Historical Research Methods at SOAS.
The module aims to provide students with an understanding of the concept of slavery in a sub-Saharan African historical context; teach the skills required to analyse primary sources on African slavery; and to give students the ability to identify the theoretical framework of slavery and post-slavery studies in Africa and to confront these approaches critically with specific regional context and case studies.