Transition 105 - Featured Article
The Memory of Gold: Happy Slaves and the Problem of Security
by Laurence Ralph
On his way back from a trip to Brazil, anthropologist Laurence Ralph unexpectedly becomes the object of scrutiny, calling into question the meanings of "homeland" and "security" in the long wake of the Atlantic slave trade.
There is hardly any place to sit. I manage to squeeze next to a family who is speaking Spanish. The couple in front of me is conversing in English but their Creole-inflected accents suggest that they are not native speakers. The room is filled with weary faces in varying shades of brown. Every so often, one of the five customs agents behind the counter tries with little success to pronounce a Spanish-sounding name, an African-sounding name, a Haitian-sounding name, and one of us rises up from where we are seated and approaches the counter. There are posters on the wall behind the counter that say: “KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: U.S. CUSTOMS AGENTS HAVE TO EXPLAIN WHY YOU ARE BEING DETAINED.” Oh, is that what’s happening? Am I being detained? That had not actually occurred to me, until now.
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