Tselot Aklilu

Institution: Scripps College


My research investigates how maroons, enslaved Africans who escaped their plantations and established independent communities, have identified flight as an important avenue through which Black folks can move from bondage to liberation. I draw from the works of Saidiya Hartman, Frank Wilderson, Fred Moten, and scholars of Afro-Pessimism to examine the legacy of maroon resistance within the Black radical tradition and understand how Blackness has been ontologically figured as a site of refusal antithetical to statehood. This project is anchored in Neil Roberts’ theory that a human being—whether enslaved or emancipated—occupies an innate agency over their body which encompasses their ability to move and engage in a struggle, all of which is essentially actualized through the maroon strategy of flight. This research thus explores how maroons have come to us with an ideation of Black fugitivity as an active performance of freedom by looking at the ways in which political exiles of the Black Power Era have adopted marronage in their liberation struggles. I work through slave narratives and fugitive testimonies so to interrogate the ways in which the Black body in exile paradoxically allows Black folk to stake a claim to a contemporary maroon identity— an identity marked by their fugitivity and one which grants them a reimagined Black existence grounded in their subjectivity and corporeal agency. The principal research questions in mind are as follows: What role did the maroon strategy of flight play in disturbing the foundations of the plantation system and asserting the inalienable right to be African and free? How do contemporary imaginations of Black fugitivity act as an extension of traditional maroon strategies? What do maroons visibilize about the ontology of Blackness?

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