Scenes of Loss in the Archives: Irish Genealogies of Slavery in Colonial Cuba. UCC – SILAS Annual Lecture. 27 MAY 5PM (1PM Argentina)

UCC-Society for Irish Latin American Studies Annual Lecture.

Scenes of Loss in the Archives: Irish Genealogies of Slavery in Colonial Cuba

Dr. Margaret Brehony

(Respondent: Dr. Kate Hodgson

Chair: Prof. Nuala Finnegan)

27 MAY 5PM


Irish slave-owning families in the Caribbean is a new subject of migration history but the idea of Irish women owning enslaved people is still taboo. My study of Irish involvement in slavery and interrelated processes of race and gender in colonial Cuba invites us to think about who we are in relation to our production of knowledge of the past. In this examination of Cuban archives, I propose new genealogies that make more visible Irish surnames and unlock the intertwined, intergenerational history of Irish slaveholding families and the people of African origin who became their human property. My analysis demonstrates how slaveholders depended on a system in which the heritability of enslavement extracted from African maternal lines sustained the wealth of Irish planter elites. This critical reading of violence and dehumanisation codified in ‘banal chronicles’ of colonial reportage highlights the transmission of slave property to women through inheritance. It also presents a counter-history to dominant narratives of Irish-Caribbean settlement by amplifying how enslaved women actively used the law to shape their freedom from Irish slaveholders.

Dr. Margaret Brehony is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie/CAROLINE Research Fellow at the Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies, UCC. President of the Society for Irish Latin American Studies, Dr. Brehony is co-editor of a bilingual collection of essays with Nuala Finnegan, Irlanda y Cuba: Historias Entretejidas/Ireland and Cuba: Entangled Histories, published by Ediciones Boloña (2019).

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