Exhibiting Slavery examines the ways in which Caribbean postmodern historical vels about slavery written in Spanish, English, and French function as virtual museums, simultaneously showcasing and curating a collection of 'primary documents' within their pages. As Vivian Nun Halloran attests, these vels highlight narrative 'objects' extraneous to their plot - such as excerpts from the work of earlier writers, allusions to specific works of art, the uniforms of maroon armies assembled in preparation of a military offensive, and accounts of slavery's negative impact on the traditional family unit in Africa or the United States. In doing so, they demand that their readers go beyond the pages of the books to sort out fact from fiction and consider what relationship these featured 'objects' have to slavery and to contemporary life. The self-referential function of these texts produces a 'museum effect' that simultaneously teaches and entertains their readers, prompting them to continue their own research beyond and outside the text.
Vivian Nun Halloran is Associate Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature at Indiana University.