February 5-6, 2016: “Marronage and Maroonage in Culture, History, and Society”
In 1575, Sir Francis Drake, while plundering Spanish Panama, collaborated with an eighty-year old kingdom of escaped slaves, “symerons” as he called them, or maroons. Ten years before the Pilgrims settled in Plymouth, a hundred and fifty English colonists heading for Jamestown, Virginia, sailed into a hurricane and found themselves marooned on the Bermudas. The result was a real-life Lost adventure complete with rival camps, mutinies, murder, and executions. Whether in tales of escaped slaves living in the central mountains of Jamaica, European sailors castaway on desert islands, or even humans on distant planets, maroons have dominated the Atlantic imagination since the earliest encounters between American, African, and European peoples. Apocalyptic novels, films, and TV programs ranging from Planet of the Apes to Battlestar Galacticaindicate that this trope is still current today. It is, perhaps, the central trope of American identity.