Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Richard M. Leventhal
This dissertation investigates the slavery and post-emancipation periods in French Guiana using archival, geospatial, and archaeological data from a nineteenth-century spice plantation in combination with an ethnographic exploration of the cultural heritage of slavery. Information from a variety of archival sources reveal the myths that French administrators created and perpetuated to encourage settlement in what was generally understood to be a “failed” colonial space. An analysis of LiDAR reveals highly organized plantation landscapes that embedded colonial power in the landscape. An initial artifact study at the household level reveals that enslaved people relied on a variety of imported material culture in their daily lives. I argue that the landscapes of spice production were more significant than previously acknowledged and that enslaved people were active participants in colonial networks. As the first archaeological investigation of a plantation slave quarter in French Guiana, this dissertation considers slavery from a non-island, non-sugar dominant colony to counter the more well-studied plantations in the Caribbean. The excavation provides baseline information for a new region using methods that have become well-established within African Diaspora archaeology, yet it challenges the convention that plantation landscapes are directly correlated with the commodities being produced for export to instead claim that spice plantation landscapes functioned to express French colonial ideologies. Because the lack of basic information about slavery heavily influences contemporary discourse, the project includes essential public components that support the broader project of reparative scholarship. Community-engaged site visits furthermore contribute to Afro-diasporic heritage tourism that directly confronts colonial legacies by centering the histories, spaces, and materiality of enslavement.
Clay, Elizabeth, "Slavery And Freedom On The Fringes Of France: Historical Archaeology At Habitation La Caroline, French Guiana" (2021). Publicly Accessible Penn Dissertations. 5302.