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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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Humanity, Hegel and Freedom

Humanity, Hegel and Freedom

Chapter:
(p.87) Chapter 5 Humanity, Hegel and Freedom
Source:
The Politics of Slavery
Author(s):

Laura Brace

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474401142.003.0005

This chapter argues that is not enough to tell a story of humanity that takes personhood and autonomy as already accomplished. The process of transforming humanity into moral beings, and of distinguishing between humanity and the status of personhood, was never straightforward, but full of disruptions, ruptures, contradictions and repetitions. The mobility of the border between person and thing, and the intermediate statuses of Hegel’s bondsman and the fugitive slave were inseparable from the development of ideas about epidermalization, colour and inferiority. This chapter examines slavery as part of the forwardness of modernity, of stories that we think of as about progress, freedom and humanity. The drawing of boundaries within humanity, the sense of partitions that became permanent, was contested, and the line between human beings, sub-persons and rational, moral agents was not easily drawn, despite Kant’s insistence on its solidity. In this chapter, the symbiosis of race and the moral-political discourse of Kant and Hegel and the inextricable coupling of freedom and slavery are shown to work together to undermine the possibility of taking autonomy for granted, and of holding the historical past firmly in place.

Keywords:   Hegel, Epidemalization, black inferiority, master-slave dialectic, Douglass

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