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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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Unparalleled Drudgery and the Deprivation of Freedom

Unparalleled Drudgery and the Deprivation of Freedom

(p.115) Chapter 6 Unparalleled Drudgery and the Deprivation of Freedom
The Politics of Slavery

Laura Brace

Edinburgh University Press

This book insists on the connections between freedom, belonging and labour for understanding the politics of slavery. This chapter seeks to show how constructions of race and labour were inextricable from one another, and how thinking about slavery as a labour system is inseparable from understanding freedom as a contested concept, forged out of experience and struggle. Part of that struggle was about trying to find and define the limits of enslavability, and its location in a constellation of concepts of self-possession, labour power, race and property. Labour as a moral and political category was caught up with ideas about autonomy, morality and honour that were deeply contested, and the mobile borders between free and unfree labour, labour and capital, persons and property were inseparable from questions about who belonged, and who was eligible to be incorporated into civil society. Through a focus on slave hiring and slave provisioning grounds, this chapter explores how and why the abolitionist arguments about freedom, rationality and shared humanity could not help them to escape the sheer adaptability of bondage, as it resurfaced in questions about the command over labour, trustworthiness, the appearance of inferior capacities, and the division between the industrious and the idle.

Keywords:   Proslavery arguments, Gradual abolition, labour, drudgery, servitude

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