Slavery, Liberal Thought and Reparations. Contesting the Compensation of Slave Owners in the Caribbean
Claudia Rauhut – 2021
This paper analyses how Jamaican activists and scholars are reassessing the compensation paid to British slave owners at the end of slavery in the 1830s as part of their claims to European governments for reparations. Based on anthropological research in Kingston, the author elaborates on her interview partners' use of archival evidence as a means to counter British denial of responsibility for slavery and unwillingness to confront its legacies. She further emphasizes how activists are questioning the notion of legality of the compensation and of slavery itself, ending with a reflection on this as a contestation of the liberal thought, which, in its early genesis, externalized slavery. The paper interprets the activists’ critique of the British politics of denial and of the hierarchy of global power relations as part of a broader epistemological challenge to historical narratives and political asymmetries that disconnect European capitalism, Western modernity, and liberalism from slavery.