Whose history? Diasporic remembering in Dorothea Smartt's ship shape

Wade, Chloe. 2013. 'Whose history? Diasporic remembering in Dorothea Smartt's ship shape'. In: Perspectives from ‘Other’ Cultures Translating Culture’. Goldsmiths, University of London, United Kingdom 20-22 September. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

those erudite manuscripts
that aid and abet,
corroborate and validate each other,
I will vilify with my mother’s

— 'ruby lips', Dorothea Smartt.

Shipshape (2008) is Black British poet Dorothea Smartt's literary resurrection of an unknown African buried at Sunderland Point, Lancashire, circa 1736. Renaming the figure 'Bilal', Smartt undertakes a literary 'remembering' of Bilal's story alongside an assessment of her own positionality as black/female/poet. Taking forward Joan Anim-Addo's concept of 'auto-theorising' within the African-Caribbean woman's text, I undertake an analysis of the poet's 'auto-theorised' approach to 'remembering' Bilal's life and consciousness, whilst simultaneously placing the ancestral, African past within the present-day experiences of people of the African diaspora. I pay particular attention to the inherent silencing of black voices within Eurocentric historical narrative, arguing that Smartt's 'remembering' can be constituted as an attempt to rewrite history as well as memory. Smartt's poetic content, form and use of language is analysed as evidence of 'auto-theorising'; the poet's use of myriad voices and personas, experimental forms and non-linear structure contribute to a collection concerned with the examination of the affective, psychological displacement process undertaken by Africans during the Middle Passage.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

Additional Information:

AHRC Grant: AH/J001899/1.

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature
English and Comparative Literature > Centre for Caribbean Studies


20 September 2013Completed

Event Location:

Goldsmiths, University of London, United Kingdom

Date range:

20-22 September

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

03 Sep 2014 10:52

Last Modified:

24 Sep 2014 09:35



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