When we think of slavery in the Americas, most of us generally think of people from Africa and their descendants who were enslaved and transported across the Atlantic to provide labor for the plantation economies of the New World. But recently, historians have begun to reassess the significance of other forms of slavery in the Americas—specifically the enslavement of millions of indigenous people in the Caribbean and beyond. Fellow Rebecca Goetz, associate professor of history at New York University, is working to recover the history of indigenous slavery as it was practiced by competing colonial powers in the Caribbean and exploring the relationship between the enslavement of native peoples and the development of chattel slavery across the Western Hemisphere.
In this podcast, Goetz problematizes predominant narratives about slavery in the Caribbean, especially those that emphasize the complete disappearance of native peoples. Looking at both larger and smaller islands in the region, her work shows us that many sites (such as Cubaqua or Antigua) were in fact not at all peripheral to this history between the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. Goetz discusses the challenges of her historical research—notably, a dearth of archival resources—as well as its importance in challenging monolithic conceptions of the history of enslavement and European settler colonialism.