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Beyond Legality: Unveiling the Mauritius Slave Trade Through a Comparative Analysis of Shipwrecks

Stefania Manfio
Tue June 4th 2024, 9:00 - 10:00am

This PhD thesis investigates the legacy of the Indian Ocean slave trade through a multidisciplinary study centered on the island of Mauritius. It employs maritime archaeology, archival research, and material cultural analysis to examine slave shipwrecks, offering crucial insights into the lived experiences of enslaved individuals, the complex dynamics of the trade, and its enduring impact on Mauritian society.

By focusing on the comparative study of two distinct shipwrecks within Mauritian waters—the Victoire (1804) representing the legal era and the Coureur (1821) epitomizing the illegal period—this research elucidates the intricate evolution of the slave trade in this region.

The thesis contextualizes the Indian Ocean as a historically significant maritime region, highlighting Mauritius’ pivotal role in the slave trade under various colonial influences. It addresses the methodological challenges inherent in studying underground economies, such as the illegal slave trade following abolition, demonstrating the power of historical archaeology to illuminate these concealed practices.

The study explores the profound symbolism of the slave ship, revealing the human cost and transformative processes associated with forced oceanic crossings. Maritime archaeology provides a unique lens to understand the material realities of the slave trade within the Indian Ocean.

This research contributes significantly to the anthropological discourses on the Indian Ocean slave trade. It offers a nuanced perspective grounded in the material and historical evidence of slavery, revealing the multifaceted nature of this tragic legacy and its enduring consequences.

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PW: 955266