“The Right Woman in the Right Place”: Mary Seacole and Corrective Histories of Empire


  • Samantha Pinto Georgetown University


Empire, Gender, Feminism


Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands, the 1857 autobiography and war memoir by Jamaican nurse Mary Seacole, has had a long and prolific afterlife in British and Caribbean public imaginations. This essay traces the “corrective histories” deployed to re-order Seacole’s narrative into more contemporary political frameworks of anti-racism, multiculturalism, and humanitarianism. In doing so, this article lays bare the constructions of postcolonial black experience, and suggests an interpretive methodology that conceptually allows for and indeed centers on the complex experiences of black women in the diaspora.  This includes a recognition of the limits of current conceptual frames of inclusion, agency, and resistance in black postcolonial studies and studies of Empire.


Author Biography

Samantha Pinto, Georgetown University

Samantha Pinto (PhD, UCLA 2007) is Associate Professor of English and affiliated faculty of Women’s and Gender Studies, African and African Diaspora Studies, The Warfield Center for African American Studies, and LGBTQ Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Her book, Difficult Diasporas: The Transnational Feminist Aesthetic of the Black Atlantic (NYU Press, 2013), was the winner of the 2013 William Sanders Scarborough Prize for African American Literature and Culture from the MLA. Her work has been published in journals including Meridians, Signs, Palimpsest, Safundi, Small Axe, and Atlantic Studies, and she has received fellowships from the NEH and the Harry Ransom Center. Her second book, Infamous Bodies, forthcoming from Duke, explores the relationship between 18th and 19th-century black women celebrities and discourses of race, gender, & human rights.  She is the co-editor with Alexandra Moore of a forthcoming collection on human rights and literature beyond the nation-state from Palgrave, the current interim editor of the journal African American Review, the special issue co-editor with Jennifer Nash of a forthcoming Feminist Formations special issue on “Teaching the Feminist Classics Now.” Currently, she is at work on a third book, Under the Skin, on race, embodiment, and scientific discourse in African American and African Diaspora culture.