‘Handle with care’: literature, archaeology, slavery

Josie Gill*, Catriona McKenzie, Emma Lightfoot

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
481 Downloads (Pure)


This article examines the relationship between literary and bioarchaeological approaches to slavery, and investigates how the methods and priorities of each discipline might inform each other in understanding what it was like to be enslaved. Both bioarchaeologists and creative writers have attempted to access the inner lives of enslaved people, yet there has been little interaction between these disciplines. This paper offers an account of an interdisciplinary research project which brought together a literary scholar, two archaeological scientists and seven creative writers to explore how writing might not only communicate a history primarily understood through archaeological evidence, but could itself inform approaches to that evidence. We discuss two key themes which emerged from the project as ways of opening up, rather than claiming, the past: Conversation and Caring. These are themes which were also crucial to the success of the interdisciplinary process, as it was only through attention to our relationships with each other that we were ultimately able to begin to reassess the nature of material in each of our disciplines.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-37
Number of pages17
JournalInterdisciplinary Science Reviews
Issue number1
Early online date23 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2019

Structured keywords

  • Centre for Black Humanities


  • archaeological science
  • Bristol
  • creative writing
  • Interdisciplinary research
  • slavery


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