Antebellum Posthuman: Race and Materiality in the Mid-Nineteenth Century

Antebellum Posthuman: Race and Materiality in the Mid-Nineteenth Century

Antebellum Posthuman: Race and Materiality in the Mid-Nineteenth Century

Antebellum Posthuman: Race and Materiality in the Mid-Nineteenth Century

Excerpt

Introduction
Beyond Recognition: the Problem
of Antebellum Embodiment

“Am I not a man and a brother?” the eighteenth-century abolitionist motto demands. This question is meant to be rhetorical—to indict a blindness to one’s fellow human so obscene that today, as Hortense Spillers notes, it “might be denied, point blank, as a possibility for anyone, except that we know it happened.” Indeed, Anglo-American abolitionists regularly diagnosed slavery as the product of a monumental failure—or deliberate refusal—to recognize the humanity of enslaved persons, and their rhetoric survives today in the commonplace assertion that slavery and racism are practices that operate by dehumanization. But while, as the famous abolitionist motto suggests, the “question” of Black humanity was undeniably on the line in the debate over slavery, this focus on recognition overlooks the full scope of the struggle that was pitched on the battleground of the Black body in the antebellum United States.

In this book, I argue that the ideological struggle over slavery in antebellum America was one that contested not just the constituency of humanity (who qualifies?) but also the meaning of “the human” as such. That is, I suggest that to understand the true stakes of the fight for recognition— and of the ferocity with which that recognition was denied—we must be . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.