Rebellious Histories

The Amistad Slave Revolt and the Cultures of Late Twentieth-Century Black Transnationalism

By Matthew J. Christensen

Subjects: Industrial / Labor Relations, African Studies, Literary Criticism, Social Change, Cultural Studies
Paperback : 9781438439709, 202 pages, January 2013
Hardcover : 9781438439693, 202 pages, March 2012

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: Rebellious Histories
1. Cinque/Sengbe: Naming the Transnational Subject
2. Cannibals in the Postcolony: Charlie Haffner’s Amistad Kata-Kata and the Moral Economy of Global Consumption
3. Neoliberal Masculinity, Black Transnationalism, and the United States’ Disappearing borders in Amistad and Echo of Lions
4. Enslaving Globalization: Trans-Atlantic Slavery, Civil War, and Modernity in Raymond DeSouza-George’s The Broken Handcuff
Conclusion: Rebellious Futures
Works Cited

Traces the emergence of creative texts focusing on the nineteenth-century slave trade to make sense of the radicalized effects of global capitalism.


From the early 1970s to the mid-1990s, playwrights, novelists, filmmakers, visual artists, and prison writers from Sierra Leone and the United States brought a new attention to the events of the 1839 Amistad shipboard slave rebellion. As a testament of the human will to freedom, the story of the Amistad mutineers also describes the wide arc of the international circuits of capital, commerce, juridical power, and diplomacy that structured and reproduced the Atlantic slave trade for nearly four centuries. In Rebellious Histories, Matthew J. Christensen argues that for creative artists struggling to comprehend—and survive—pernicious manifestations of globalization like Sierra Leone's civil war, the Amistad rebellion's narrative of exploitative resource extraction, transatlantic migrations, armed rebellion, and American judicial intervention offers both a historical antecedent and allegory for contemporary global capitalism's reconfiguration of culture and subjectivity. At the same time, he shows how the mutineers' example provides a model for imagining utopian forms of transnationalism. With its wide-ranging comparative approach, Rebellious Histories brings a unique perspective to the study of the cultural histories of both slave resistance and globalization.

Matthew J. Christensen is Associate Professor of English at the University of Texas–Pan American.


"…[a] noteworthy contribution to slavery studies … Christensen … [has] invited scholars of West African literatures to rethink literary representations of slavery and the slave trades within specifically West African trajectories. " — Research in African Literatures

". ..a distinct reward of reading Christensen's work is the access we are given to the diverse and compelling archive he excavates … [his] bold survey of these varied media is both sensitively inclusive and sophisticatedly critical … Christensen's book is a timely contribution to a recently emerging body of critical literature that analyzes African representations of the transatlantic slave trade and the trade's implications for contemporary political discourse. " — College Literature

"Rebellious Histories tells how the actions of enslaved Africans resonated beyond one particular historical moment. It is a significant contribution to the 'literary' study of slave rebellions, as well as to postcolonial studies and the study of the Atlantic world. " — Jack Shuler, author of Calling Out Liberty: The Stono Slave Rebellion and the Universal Struggle for Human Rights