UCL Institute of the Americas


Slavery and sacramental politics between colonial Colombia’s two coasts

05 November 2019, 6:00 pm–8:00 pm

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IHR Latin American History Seminar.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Oscar Martinez


Institute of the Americas
51 Gordon Square
United Kingdom

Conceptually the sacrament of baptism was a key tool in colonial governance of slavery in the Iberian world, yet the ways in which the ritual was practiced were contingent on the age, gender, location, and the strategies of the participants. This talk explores enslaved experiences of the sacrament of baptism from urban nodal points along slave routes from Caribbean and tropical lowland locales in eighteenth-century New Granada, colonial Colombia, a space where the Black Atlantic and Black Pacific uniquely intersect. Our knowledge of the sacraments and claims-making in colonial Spanish America is largely based upon the experience of major urban centres. Analysing baptism in both urban and rural locales and with a focus on mobility allows us to appreciate broad commonalities as well as place-based contingencies that shaped African diasporic experiences of the sacrament. Bethan’s talk examines how New Granada’s waterways and enslaved people’s itineraries played a constitutive role in the practice of baptism.

About the Speaker

Bethan Fisk

Bethan Fisk is a Teaching Fellow in Caribbean History at the University of Leeds and the focus of her research is on African diasporic cultural history in colonial Latin America and the Caribbean. She holds a PhD in History from the University of Toronto, where she was a Natalie Zemon Davis Fellow and has a BA and MA from Bristol. Her talk is taken from an upcoming article that will feature in a special journal issue, ‘Black Geographies of New Granada, Colombia, and the Pacific,’ which she is coediting with Sherwin Bryant and Yesenia Barragan. She is currently working on her book manuscript, titled Quotidian Mobilities: African Diasporic Religions in New Granada and the Iberian World, which focuses on material culture and epistemological circulations between the the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Pacific worlds. Bethan's second book project examines the shared histories of Jamaica and New Granada through the slave trade, with a principal focus on the political, social, and cultural lives of enslaved and fugitive Jamaican creoles in the Viceroyalty.