The Ocean as Archive: Attending to the Slave Ship Leusden – Mikki Stelder

This is an event I cannot speak of. An unremarkable occurrence swept away under the currents where the mouth of the Maroni River kisses the South Atlantic. It is a story about the slave ship Leusden, which made ten journeys, its last resulting in the murder of 664 abducted Africans in the hold. The same silence surrounds the largest massacre in the history of the transatlantic slave trade today, as it did in 1738. The traces that remain are accounts of the crew fighting for their lives and a chest of gold and a note from the Directors of the Dutch West India Company stating the massacre constituted a “sensitive damage to the company,” “an unfortunate business risk” (Balai, Slavenschip Leusden, 2013). In this talk, I begin to try to make sense of why the largest massacre in the history of the transatlantic slave trade, the nailing of the hatch, the murder of 664 captives didn’t cause a ripple and remains sedimented in the sandbank at the river’s mouth. What does this tell us about the place of the slave ship in the Dutch cultural archive?

Mikki Stelder is an interdisciplinary researcher, writer and organizer fascinated by anything that has to do with oceans and water; queer, trans, feminist, and anticolonial thought and praxis; and scholarly practices that intersects with art, poetics and movements for social justice. They are a Marie Sklodowska Curie postdoctoral fellow recipient at Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis and the University of British Columbia for the project Maritime Imagination: A Cultural Oceanography of Dutch Imperialism and its Aftermaths. You can find more about their work at where they also write on their blog Finger in the Dike!