Fugitive Modernities

Kisama and the Politics of Freedom

Book Pages: 280 Illustrations: 9 illustrations Published: December 2018

Author: Jessica A. Krug

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, African Studies, History > World History

During the early seventeenth century, Kisama emerged in West Central Africa (present-day Angola) as communities and an identity for those fleeing expanding states and the violence of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The fugitives mounted effective resistance to European colonialism despite—or because of—the absence of centralized authority or a common language. In Fugitive Modernities Jessica A. Krug offers a continent- and century-spanning narrative exploring Kisama's intellectual, political, and social histories. Those who became Kisama forged a transnational reputation for resistance, and by refusing to organize their society around warrior identities, they created viable social and political lives beyond the bounds of states and the ruthless market economy of slavery. Krug follows the idea of Kisama to the Americas, where fugitives in the New Kingdom of Grenada (present-day Colombia) and Brazil used it as a means of articulating politics in fugitive slave communities. By tracing the movement of African ideas, rather than African bodies, Krug models new methods for grappling with politics and the past, while showing how the history of Kisama and its legacy as a global symbol of resistance that has evaded state capture offers essential lessons for those working to build new and just societies.


"It is rare these days to see a historian write the history of early and precolonial Africa (a term less apt for Angola than many other areas) from an African perspective. Krug has achieved this goal well in Fugitive Modernities. Her willingness to see Kisama not just as resistant to Portuguese colonialism, but also how it struggled with internal contradictions and challenges shows the value of looking at Africa from the inside out. That she is able to do so with the dearth of documentation she has shows the importance of orientation in undertaking a project like the study of Kisama." — John Thornton, International Journal of African Historical Studies

Fugitive Modernities has a lot to offer. The reflections on the nature of colonialism, its implications for historical periodization, and its insights into the history of Kisama, Limón, and Palmares are valuable and based on a wide range of sources.”

— Inge Brinkman, Africa Today

“This intellectual history of Kisama is impressive in its breadth of research where Krug follows an anti-authoritarian ideology through multiple languages in Africa and the Americas. Her book will enable scholars to re-conceptualize how Africans influenced the Black Atlantic socially, politically, and intellectually. . . . Her departure from the conventions of diasporic studies will resonate with scholars interested in understanding the long-lasting intellectual influences of fugitives in both Africa and the Americas.”

— Henry B. Lovejoy, Journal of African History

“Krug’s most original argument is that the frameworks of American maroon communities were constructed first in Africa, where flight from the forces of enslavement was commonplace prior to the Atlantic crossing. For historians of West Central Africa, Krug’s trenchant critique of statist bias in the existing historiography provides much food for thought. And Krug’s broader historiographical approach, to move beyond Eurocentric concepts to ideas derived from African languages, powerfully critiques how colonial ideas continue to shape dominant historical discourses.”

— Toby Green, HAHR

"Krug’s engaging work assesses 16th- and 17th-century constructions of Kisama in the South Atlantic as part of a reputational geography, an organizing political idiom (or, in her parlance, a 'meme'), and a politics of fugitivity." — W. C. Rucker, Choice

“In Fugitive Modernities Jessica A. Krug traces, imagines and really dares us to plot new paths to liberation by lingering in the work and world of Kisama. While never underestimating the consequences of bodily terror, Krug reminds us that every scrutinized black body contain theories, ideas, and imaginations that often travel in ways we intentionally fail to ritualize. I've read hundreds of memoirs and autobiographies this year. I'm still unsure how Krug made Fugitive Modernities, an academic book, the most intimate and imaginative work I've read in years. Fugitive Modernities is an intellectual, artistic, loving, and liberatory achievement.” — Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy: An American Memoir

“With Fugitive Modernities, Jessica A. Krug proves herself to be a brilliant historian, as adept at mining the archive as she is at theoretical analysis. She is an intellectual historian who traces an idea through all of its varied meanings, languages, and shifts throughout time and space. This book will constitute a paradigm shift in how we think of intellectual history, of concepts of the Black Atlantic, and of the political ideas that traversed continents with black bodies who defined and gave meaning and purpose to them. This is a major accomplishment by a scholar whose dazzling intellect has opened new avenues for the work that will follow in its wake.” — Farah Jasmine Griffin, Columbia University

“Fugitives in early modern Africa and America survived the predations of slaving states by harnessing political traditions that would cure the ills caused by concentrated power. Tracing the ideas and actions of black people who built self-governing societies, Jessica A. Krug highlights new possibilities for thinking about collective struggle in a continuous age of rapacious exploitation. In this innovative and ambitious work of history, we can envision a free future outside the custody of state authorities.” — Vincent Brown, author of The Reaper’s Garden: Death and Power in the World of Atlantic Slavery

Fugitive Modernities is a major contribution to historiography on West Central Africa, Atlantic History and the African Diaspora. Jessica A. Krug’s research is careful and innovative, drawing on sources from three different continents to offer an original approach to resistance, slavery, political organization, and identity. Krug suggests new ways to examine West Central African political and social lives and the intellectual contribution of Africans to the Americas.” — Mariana Candido, author of An African Slaving Port and the Atlantic World: Benguela and its Hinterland


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Price: $26.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Jessica A. Krug is Associate Professor of History at George Washington University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Note on Cartography  xi
List of Archives and Abbreviations  xiii
Introduction. Fugitive Modernities: Chronotope, Epistemology, and Subjectivity  1
1. Kafuxi Ambari and the People without State's History: Forging Kisama Reputations, c. 1580-1630  31
2."They Publicize to the Neighboring Nations That the Arms of Your Majesty Do Not Conquer": Fugitive Politics and Legitimacy, c. 1620-55  58
3. "The Husbands Having First Laid Down Their Lives in Their Defense": Gender, Food, and Politics in the War of 1655-58  86
4. (Mis)Taken Identities: Kisama and the Politics of Naming in the Palenque Limón, New Kingdom of Grenada, c. 1570-1634  111
5. Fugitive Angola: Toward a New History of Palmares  146
6. "The Ashes of Revolutionary Fires Burn Hot": Brazilian and Angolan Nationalism and the "Colonial" and "Postcolonial" Life of the Kisama Meme, c. 1700-Present  164
Conclusion. Fugitive Modernities in the Neoliberal Afterlife of the Nation-State  187
Notes  195
Bibliography  241
Index  257
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Finalist, 2019 Frederick Douglass Book Prize, presented by the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University

Finalist, 2019 Harriet Tubman Prize, presented by the Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transnational Slavery

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0154-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0119-5
Publicity material