Inside the Great Dismal Swamp: Evasion, Surveillance, and Its limits

When and Where

Thursday, February 15, 2024 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm
JHB100 & online
Jackman Humanities Building
170 St. George Street, 1st floor


Siba N’Zatioula Grovogui


On February 15th at 3:00pm, Siba N’Zatioula Grovogui, Professor of International Relations Theory and African Political Thought at Cornell University will join us for a lecture titled “Inside the Great Dismal Swamp: Evasion, Surveillance, and Its limits.” This public talk is part of a 2023-2024 Andrew Mellon Sawyer Seminar titled “Evasion: Thinking the Underside of Surveillance.”

This lecture will be a hybrid event, delivered in person and on Zoom. Please see further details below and be sure to register!

About the Talk:

The Great Dismal SWAMP bears on the theme of evasion in a number of ways. First, it evokes a mental image of evasion, a place of refuge, where formerly enslaved Africans found refuge respite from the treacheries of the plantation.  As a metaphor and a thing, the Dismal Swamp evokes flight or escape and separation: an event that would ceaselessly haunt each of the communities involved in their sense of self, security, and existence. For these reasons and others, maroon communities have been relegated in political theory to distance between communities, each with their unique political, cultural, and other non-geographic properties, including freedom. It is my contention that separation has been exaggerated. Marronage remains an expression of the universal drive for freedom which manifests itself both as perpetual escape from prior forms of ‘enslavement’ and self-constitution. The means to the latter include new domains of bounded relations, predicated upon new sensibilities and aesthetics. These are intended to be impermeable to prior languages, scripts, orders, and laws that set the terms of evasion.  This first lecture will show how political thought and experiment from the Great Dismal Swamp evades detection to challenge the boundaries of disciplinary and canonical commonsense of modern notions of freedom. 


About Professor Grovogui:

Siba N'Zatioula Grovogui is originally from Guinea, where he attended Law School before serving as law clerk, judge, and legal counsel for the National Commission on Trade, Agreements, and Protocols. He received a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1988. Prior to joining Cornell University's Africana Studies, Grovogui was professor of international relations theory and law at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of Sovereigns, Quasi-Sovereigns, and Africans: Race and Self-determination in International Law (University of Minnesota Press, 1996) and Beyond Eurocentrism and Anarchy: Memories of International Institutions and Order (Palgrave, April 2006). Grovogui has recently completed and submitted a book manuscript titled The Gaze of Copernicus: Postcolonialism, Serendipity, and International Relations (University of Manchester Press). He is working to complete the companion book, tentatively titled ‘Quilombo’s Horizon: Moral Orders and the Law of the Commons.’ 




Contact Information

Centre for Diaspora & Transnational Studies


Centre for Diaspora & Transnational Studies


170 St. George Street, 1st floor