A photo taken from the sky of a sunken ship partially submerged in the ocean

November 7, 2018 – Kevin Dawson: “History Below the Waterline: Enslaved Salvage Divers Harvesting Seaports’ Hinter-Seas, c.1540-1840”

Dawson’s scholarship demonstrates how enslaved Africans carried swimming, surfing, canoe-making, and canoeing skills to the Americas where they were exploited by slaveholders. This talk considers how enslaved Africans employed as salvage divers transformed shipwrecks, especially sunken Spanish treasure ships, into hinter-seas generating capital that financed terrestrial production throughout the English Empire.

Kevin Dawson grew up surfing, swimming, and free-diving in south Los Angeles County, all of which profoundly informed his scholarship. He received a BA from California State University, Fullerton and was awarded his PhD from the University of South Carolina in 2005, where his advisor was Dan Littlefield. Dawson’s scholarship and teaching focus on the African diaspora and Atlantic History from roughly 1444, when the Portuguese first sailed into Sub-Saharan Africa to 1888, when Brazil became the last country in the New World to abolish slavery. He has conducted research throughout the continental US, Hawai‘i, the Caribbean, and West Africa and has published articles in the Journal of American History and Journal of Social History, as well as several chapters in edited volumes. His book Undercurrents of Power: Aquatic Culture in the Africa Diaspora was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2018.


November 7, 2018 | 12:00 PM
Free and open to the public


Humanities Building 1, Room 210
University of California, Santa Cruz


Posted in Cultural Studies Events.