restricted access African Atrocity, American Humanity: Slavery and Its Transnational Afterlives

This essay argues that contemporary American conceptions of African atrocity are haunted by the specter of slavery, which structures the ways in which a relation between the United States and Africa is imagined. Francis Bok’s memoir, Escape from Slavery (2003), and Dave Eggers’s novel What Is the What (2006) reveal the stakes of this literary haunting, where the canonical Atlantic genre of the antebellum slave narrative is called into play to narrate contemporary Sudanese stories, thus refashioning the politics of race and diaspora for a neoliberal age. Reading for the formal and ideological exchanges between subject, author, and amanuensis, the essay shows how the discourse of modern slavery relies on sentimental humanism to generate a seemingly new way for Americans to imagine themselves as global citizens, constituting themselves as global via their humanitarian empathy for the African victim of atrocity.