Associate Professor of Africana Studies and History
Celia Naylor’s research focuses on the Rose Hall Plantation in Jamaica due to its historic importance and its contemporary usage. Based primarily on Herbert G. de Lisser’s 1929 novel The White Witch of Rosehall, the Rose Hall tours neglect the stories of enslaved people entirely. Instead, visitors leave with a titillating story about Annie Palmer; and, the names and experiences of enslaved women, men , and children who labored at Rose Hall remain unspoken, unremembered, and unmemorialized. As Annie Palmer’s exploits ground the narrative and captivate visitors, enslaved women become “invisibly visible” and the ghostly embodiment of Gayatri Spivak’s “historically muted subject.”
At the very core of Celia’s project are telling questions and modes of inquiry about the public memorialization and representations of slavery and enslaved people. The materials displayed in Rose Hall do not highlight or contextualize any of the experiences of enslaved people’s lives on that plantation. Integrating, interpreting, and interrogating historical information about enslaved people at Rose Hall via this digital platform will establish an essential gateway for displaying crucial material about slavery and enslaved people to local Jamaicans, tourists, and a broader community of academics and non-academics.
This project offers an extraordinary opportunity for critical reflection about the politics of memory and history, the representations of enslaved people in contemporary sociocultural frameworks, and the ongoing project of reconstructing the lives of enslaved people. It provides a concrete, digital space to debunk monolithic portrayals of enslaved people’s life stories while simultaneously engaging and (re)educating the public about the complexities of slavery, and especially the often-overshadowed and neglected lives of enslaved women of African descent.