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Products for grant FEL-258168-18

Mandinga Amulets in the Black Atlantic World
Matthew Rarey, Oberlin College

Grant details:

Insignificant Things: Amulets and the Art of Survival in the Early Black Atlantic (Book)
Title: Insignificant Things: Amulets and the Art of Survival in the Early Black Atlantic
Author: Matthew Rarey
Abstract: In Insignificant Things Matthew Francis Rarey traces the history of the African-associated amulets that enslaved and other marginalized people carried as tools of survival in the Black Atlantic world from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. Often considered visually benign by white Europeans, these amulet pouches, commonly known as “mandingas,” were used across Africa, Brazil, and Portugal and contained myriad objects, from herbs and Islamic prayers to shells and coins. Drawing on Arabic-language narratives from the West African Sahel, the archives of the Portuguese Inquisition, sixteenth- and seventeenth-century European travel and merchant accounts of the West African Coast, and early nineteenth-century Brazilian police records, Rarey shows how mandingas functioned as portable archives of their makers’ experiences of enslavement, displacement, and diaspora. He presents them as examples of the visual culture of enslavement and critical to conceptualizing Black Atlantic art history. Ultimately, Rarey looks to the archives of transatlantic slavery, which were meant to erase Black life, for objects like the mandingas that were created to protect it.
Year: 2023
Primary URL:
Publisher: Duke University Press
Type: Single author monograph

Leave No Mark: Blackness and Inscription in the Inquisitorial Archive (Book Section)
Title: Leave No Mark: Blackness and Inscription in the Inquisitorial Archive
Author: Matthew Francis Rarey
Editor: Huey Copeland
Editor: Steven Nelson
Abstract: This essay begins by foregrounding two aspects of Jacques Viegas’s 1704 trial concerning "bolsas de mandinga." First, that his pouch—like many others—contained paper as a key constitutive element; and second, that the pouch he used was meant to protect him from bodily violation. Responding to Hortense Spillers’s outlining of the intimate relationship between archival writings and markings of violence against the enslaved, the chapter investigates the common incorporation of written papers in mandinga pouches as challenges and reckonings with imperial archives, inquisitorial procedure, and the expectation of enslavement as a condition defined by embodied violence. Providing a series of close analyses of never-before published written papers, drawings, and orations, the chapter first traces how the act of inscribing designs and words with ink onto paper and placing them inside the mandinga pouches emerged in conversation with wider practices of inscription in the African diaspora. Yet the papers also demonstrate how their users strategically re-conceptualized, or took advantage of, fluid relationships between papers, bodies, and textual evocations in order to respond to otherwise contemporary theorizations of the simultaneous “hypervisibility” and “invisibility” of enslaved subjects and the obfuscated legibility of Black histories in the archives of slavery.
Year: 2023
Primary URL:
Publisher: Yale University Press
Book Title: Black Modernisms in the Transatlantic World
ISBN: 0300269773