This talk explores how, in 1784 New Orleans, Cecilia Conway—a recaptured maroon woman—asserted that she was pregnant and thereby leveraged the power of her reproductive labor. Her claims about her body briefly slowed down the system of capital punishment activated in response to her marronage by altering the trajectory of the state-sanctioned sexual violence inflicted upon her. The conversations between Cecilia and the prison’s authorities that this article unearths constitute an original archive of Cecilia’s assertions while accounting for their heavily mediated and yet remarkable presence. Centering the details of Cecilia’s life, recasts the threat of marronage in colonial Louisiana from simply one of male-led armed rebellion to one of reproduction, thorny kinship networks, and a potential maroon society.
SJ Zhang is an assistant professor of English at the University of Chicago. Their current project, Going Maroon and Other Forms of Family, considers how reproduction and carceral forces shaped the decisions and triggered the archives of four women who went maroon in North America and the Caribbean between 1781 and 1820.
Professor Zhang is also working on a project concerning the woman called “Tituba, the Indian,” accused in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692-93. In this work, she examines Tituba’s testimony, racialization, and subsequent scholarly and creative representations of her life from the 17th century through the present. Zhang’s work is published in Representations, Women & Performance, Transition and Caribbean Literature in Transition, Volume 1: 1800-1920, with articles forthcoming in Small Axe and History of the Present.