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Salvage WorkU.S. and Caribbean Literatures amid the Debris of Legal Personhood$
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Angela Naimou

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780823264766

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823264766.001.0001

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Contemporary Literature and the Legal Person

Contemporary Literature and the Legal Person

(p.1) Introduction: Contemporary Literature and the Legal Person
Salvage Work

Angela Naimou

Fordham University Press

This introduction considers how the history of the Atlantic slave trade and the legal persons it has wrought shapes contemporary literary responses to global capitalism and legal personhood. It examines writings by Saidiya Hartman, Stephen Best, and M. NourbeSe Philip, in which the legal archive of slavery is a site of loss that confounds available narrative modes. Arguing that the legal archive of slavery inheres in present categories of juridical personhood, the introduction reviews such cases as the Zong slave killings, the civil death of convicts, U.S. and Haitian Constitutions, and legal identities caught between citizenship and statelessness. It addresses limitations to both legal liberalism and death-bound theories of personhood, exemplified by Giorgio Agamben’s writing on the biopolitics of bare life and the refugee. It considers how literary responses to exceptional legal personhood evoke wasted or bare life while salvaging the person from its complex and often ruinous legal histories.

Keywords:   Juridical person, Legal identity, Zong, Atlantic slavery, bare life, refugee, biopolitics, statelessness, liberalism, death-bound personhood

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