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XenocitizensIlliberal Ontologies in Nineteenth-Century America$
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Jason Berger

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780823287758

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823287758.001.0001

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Unadjusted Emancipations

Unadjusted Emancipations

(p.153) Chapter 4 Unadjusted Emancipations

Jason Berger

Fordham University Press

This chapter adds a consideration of the economic horizon to contemporary scholarship that examines the radical and, at times, emancipatory “entanglements” between slaves/ex-slaves and the environment. The chapter’s three sections present a developing arc of “unadjusted emancipations,” tracing various ways that slaves and ex-slaves negotiated and leveraged the antebellum era’s systemic production of bad debts in order to distort or circumvent standard formations of emancipatory logic. The first examines Stowe’s Dred; A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp (1856) in light of ecological-economic hermeneutics. In its reading of Dred, the interface between humans and ecology spied by scholars who study the parahuman closes with an unsettling interface between personhood and developing models of capital. The second looks at the ways Brown’s novel Clotel; or, the President’s Daughter: A Narrative of Slave Life in the United States (1853) and his appended “Narrative of the Life and Escape of William Wells Brown” manipulate the era’s production of bad debts in order to craft points of divergence from standard channels of emancipation. The third considers how the titular character of Martin Delany’s Blake; or, The Huts of America (1859-62) and his “secret” move throughout the South’s plantations in ways that radically compound. Reading the modality of secret as a blurred Moten-esque push toward a fugitive sociality of bad debt, the chapter examines how the novel presents innovative forms of resistant collectivity.

Keywords:   Afro-pessimism, Black Studies, William Wells Brown, debt, Martin Delany, Fred Moten, nineteenth-century American literature, slavery, Harriet Beecher Stowe

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