2 -3 November 2007, University of Dundee

A Triangular Traffic: Literature, Slavery and the Archive examined the interface of the literary and archival addressing creative and scholarly work in literature grounded in archival research in the context of the bi-centenary of the British Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act. Fred D'Aguiar has written of the impossibility of 'a last poem, a last play, a last song - final acts of creativity' that would 'disqualify any future return' to the subject. This question was explored in discussions of how writers and artists engage with the cultures of slavery and abolition, what acts of commemoration are performed in the present, what kind of symbolic power accrue to the iconic symbols of slavery, and what raids of the archives are done for the present in the name of the past.

The responses of Scottish writers were also addressed. In comparison with the historical and literary writing on England's relationship with Empire, plantation, slavery and abolition, the critical and creative responses to Scottish participation in these areas is of relatively recent standing. The conference enabled creative writers to talk about the motivations behind their imaginative and poetic 'narrativisation' of the archive, and critics to comment on the significance and ethical use to which such representations are put, and the effect of such textual transformations for contemporary Scottish culture.

The conference included invited historians, archivists, writers and cultural theorists such as Marcus Wood, Eric Graham, James Robertson, Jackie Kay and Caryl Phillips.

Talks have been filmed. Please click conference programme page if you wish to see the filmed talks.