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The Politics of Slavery$
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Laura Brace

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781474401142

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474401142.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 02 August 2021

Shining a Light on Slavery?

Shining a Light on Slavery?

Chapter:
(p.1) Chapter 1 Shining a Light on Slavery?
Source:
The Politics of Slavery
Author(s):

Laura Brace

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474401142.003.0001

This chapter introduces the problems of defining slavery, and asks what makes a slave a slave? It focuses on powers of ownership and relations of domination, and critically examines Patterson’s constituent elements of slavery and his transhistorical definition of slavery as fundamentally about violence and slaves’ lack of legitimacy. It goes on to explore how Patterson’s emphasis on mortality and social death has been contested by others and what these debates over definition mean for the codification of persons as property and for the category of the human. This chapter argues for the importance of the role of labour in the volatile space between race and the human, and insists that transforming humans into moral beings was (and is) a gendered and racialized process that requires us to rethink the relation between pasts, presents and futures. This is not about a rupture between past and present, but about the afterlives of slavery and about putting slavery at the centre of political thought and narratives of modernity. This approach to defining slavery reveals the limitations of modern slavery discourse, of knowing and not-knowing and the rhetoric of misery, and the risks of taking the slave outside of history.

Keywords:   Defining slavery, social death, modern slavery discourse

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