Author Archives: ycaptain

About ycaptain

Professor of Latin American and International Affairs at George Washington University. Focus on Africa and Diaspora and relationship between Africa and Latin America in South-South Relations

My Academic World

This is my professional website to share my work projects.  Feel free to browse the links and drop me a line.

“Mademoiselle Senegal, Meet Mr. Congo: ‘African Surnamed’ families in the Americas from Slavery to the 21st Century.” One of the most exciting projects I have ever researched is the uncovering of entire families with “African surnames”. “African surnames” is in quotation marks because these names were not African family names before the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Instead, individuals often had the names thrust upon them as they disembarked from the slave ship. For commercial purposes, the sellers had to identify them one way or another. One “branding” that was typical was to baptize the newly enslaved on the spot and give them a Christian first name, using the last point of departure as the surname. Hence, in 17th century Louisiana, one finds Marie Senegal as one who came from the region of Senegal. At the very least, one finds in the 19th century, Stepeney [sic] Congo whose descendants are still in the Delaware-Maryland area. This family can trace its roots back even further. These are amazing factoids in themselves. However, what excites me as a researcher is the continued existence of families with these last names today. Other “African surnames” exist here in the United States, and in the coming months I will write about them. In addition, I am fortunate to have two colleagues—one in Brazil and the other in Colombia—to research and share their findings within their respective countries. I am grateful to George Washington University for supporting my research for this important project. Of particular importance is the establishment of a database that allows us to track and analyze the various families throughout the centuries and to make some modest associations across regions. This I owe to GW graduate student Thomas Elms and his instructor Richard Hinton.  I reserve my deepest gratitude for the gracious families themselves whose forthrightness helps to bring the histories alive and keep them current.

I will be reading a paper on my preliminary findings at the 10th biennial Association for the Study of the African Diaspora (ASWAD.org) in Williamsburg, Virginia in November, 2019.

More to come shortly.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
21st Century African Migration

A joint project that I am excited about is the collection of essays titled “African Migrations: Challenges and Coping Strategies”.  My co-editors and I–Dr. Papa Sow and Dr. Elina Marmer–whittled down a number of exciting papers to just a few that we are publishing in this book-length study.  A diversity of regional and topical chapters contribute new dimensions to the dialogue on African migration and to the continually developing field of African Diaspora Studies.  It is a joy–kind of–to experience the multiple stages of the publishing process  Before you can see the book in print, you may want to check out some of the authors and ideas at the 9th Biennial Conference of ASWAD in Seville, Spain where we had two panels.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
International Organizational Theory and Afro-Latin America

Another research project that you might find useful has to do with international organization (IO) theory and the African Diaspora. In the last couple of decades, ties among Afro-Latin American communities and other regions of the Diaspora grew in exponential proportions. How does this manifest itself in organizations with a focus on Afro-Latins? Can small organizations—like the majority of the ones I study—manifest properties inherent in international organization (IO) theory? These are some of the questions I tackle in “International Organization (IO) Theory and Online Afro-Latin America,” my chapter in the forthcoming University of Florida Press book “Afro-Digital Connections: Afro-Latino and Afro-Descendant Cultural Production in the Digital Age,” edited by Drs. Eduard Arriaga and Andrés Villar.  My chapter looks closely at AfroAmérica XXI in Colombia, Afroféminas in Spain, Educafro in Brazil, and Mundo Afro in Uruguay.  As a sneak-preview, there are some elements in common that the four entities I focused on, as well as many other that did not “make the final cut” of my chapter.  Under the umbrella of a quest for visibility one finds:  1) a need to have their respective governments recognize their very existence as Afro-Latins, and this includes a push for a category in the national census that allows citizens to voluntarily declare themselves as Afro-Latin; 2) the recovery from oblivion of historical figures who continue to have deep influence on the lives of today’s Afro-Latins.  This second factor helps to educate their fellow Afro-Latins as well as the broader, global public, including their own governments.  In this latter effort, I give a shout out to Elvia Duque, whose groundbreaking book Aportes del pueblo afrodescendiente was a revelation to this scholar who considers herself knowledgeable of Afro-Latin America.

Yvonne Captain