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Advanced Seminar: Slavery in America: The Politics of Knowledge Production

History 59SA - Spring 2021

This course focuses on the long history of chattel slavery in North America, from origins through emancipation, encompassing Black and Indigenous enslavement. The course foregrounds the struggles over power, over life and death, that were at the heart of slavery's traumatic and grotesquely violent two-hundred-fifty-year career in North America, with attention to hemispheric context. At the same time, it highlights the fiercely contested historical battleground where scholars have argued about how to define American slavery--as a system or site of labor, production, and reproduction; law, property, and dispossession; racial and gender domination; sexual violation, rape, and incest; psychological terror and social death; containment and marooning; selfhood and nationality; agency and resistance; anti-colonial and revolutionary liberation and millennial redemption. Finally, it engages the "politics of knowledge production" that have produced the slavery "archive," replete with its annihilating silences, repressions, and erasures, and overdetermined "presences." In the end, the course's overarching question is how the politics of slavery, of its material experiences, interpretations, and archives, have shaped the lives and afterlives of slavery and race, to the present day. Students will conduct original research on topics related to North American slavery in consultation with the instructor that will culminate in a 12-15-page final essay. The course includes attention to the role of slavery in the founding and development of Washington University, and research projects that engage the University's slavery "archive" and questions related to enslavement in the history of the University and/or the history of St. Louis are welcome and will be supported by Olin Library Special Collections and other resources. Modern, U.S. PREREQUISITE: SEE HISTORY HEADNOTE.
Course Attributes: EN HBU HumBU EthBU BAAS HUMAS SD I

Section 01

Slavery in America: The Politics of Knowledge Production
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