Dunfey Lecture: Historian Natalie Zemon Davis, October 18, 2012
Dealing with Strangeness: Language and Information Flow in an Early Modern Slave Society
Natalie Zemon Davis
Professor of History
University of Toronto
Thursday, October 18
5 - 6 p.m.
MUB Theatre 1
Free and open to the public.
This lecture describes the language and practices of translation among slaves and masters in the plantation society of 18th century Suriname. Slaves from different parts of western Africa created a creole language to talk to each other. Two dictionaries were produced of that language through collaboration between free white men and slaves. What did each group learn of the other? Did the flow of information or its silencing facilitate resistance or oppression? The lecture ends with two 19th-century figures who used language for cultural affirmation: one a former slave who wrote about Yoruba, the other a pioneering European linguist who studied the Suriname creole.
Natalie Zemon Davis is a social and cultural historian of early modern times. She has written on peasants and artisans in early modern France; on women in Germany, France, the Netherlands and Quebec; on criminality and storytelling in sixteenth-century France; on forms of gift-giving in early modern times; and on Muslims and Christians in sixteenth-century Europe. She is the author of eight books, all of them translated into various foreign languages: Society and Culture in Early Modern France; The Return of Martin Guerre (she was also historical consultant for the film Le Retour de Martin Guerre); Fiction in the Archives: Pardon Tales in Sixteenth-Century France; Women on the Margins: Three Seventeenth-Century Lives; The Gift in Sixteenth-Century France; Slaves on Screen: Film and Historical Vision; L'histoire tout feu tout flame: Entretiens avec Denis Crouzet; Trickster Travels. A Sixteenth-Century Muslim Between Worlds. Together with Arlette Farge, she was coeditor of volume 3 (Renasisssance and Enlightenment Paradoxes) of A History of Women, edited by Michelle Perrot and Georges Duby. She has taught at the University of Toronto, the University of California at Berkeley, and Princeton University, where she was Henry Charles Lea Professor of History and Director of the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies. A former president of the American Historical Association, she is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a corresponding fellow of the British Academy, and Chevalier de l'Ordre des Palmes Academique. She is the recipient of various honorary degrees, including from Harvard University, the University of Toronto, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Cambridge University, Universite de Lyon, and Oxford University. Emerita from Princeton University, Natalie Zemon Davis is currently Adjunct Professor of History and Professor of Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto. Her present research is on slavery and sociability in 18th-century Suriname.
Sponsored by the UNH Department of History. Made possible by the generous support of the Dunfey Endowment at UNH.