Universiteit Leiden

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PhD project


Since the Middle Passage is in the North Atlantic, and the North Atlantic has a relationship with the arctic, what relationship does the Arctic have with the Middle Passage? How can this relationship be used to provide a space of healing by uncovering Afro/diasporic counter narratives?

Alexander Cromer

Alexander Cromer is researcher at PhDArts, doctoral programme in visual arts.

The Middle Passage refers to the second of three sea voyages that made up the triangular chattel slave trade used between the 15th and 19th centuries. It stretches over the North Atlantic ocean and was used to ferry souls from Africa to the New World. The route marks the beginning of the Afro/diaspora and the subsequent, violent legacy of anti-black racism in the Americas. It also represents something more than that - the subjugation of a more-than-human object via processes of white supremacist domination. In this sense, both Black lives and the North Atlantic have become entangled within the memory of the Middle Passage, which is both catalyst for and symbol of that entanglement.

In constant interchange with the North Atlantic ocean is the Arctic. The compacted glacial ice of the Arctic serves as an archive of Earth’s memory, cataloging records of atmospheric conditions with each new layer formed. Its extreme temperatures affect the flow of the North Atlantic, in turn contributing to global climate maintenance. The Arctic and the North Atlantic work in tandem, two more-than-human objects in a mutually dependent ecological waltz.

Since these two phenomena are interrelated is it also possible that the Arctic has a relationship with the Middle Passage? How can this relationship be used to uncover Afro/diasporic narratives that counter colonial and pro-white narratives? And can this relationship perhaps be used to create temporally indefinite arenas of healing and trauma recovery?

The research project investigates the potentiality of this interrelation by proposing a fictional world that exists within the relationship itself. It wants to channel a performative storytelling practice through an afrofuturist lens to reimagine the limited history of the Afro/diaspora. In doing so, this research aims to recontextualize the Middle Passage to create new, transformative spaces of healing within the entanglement of Black lives and the North Atlantic.


  • Prof.dr. A. Haarmann
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