Abstract

After being kidnapped from West Africa at the age of ten and forcibly migrated across the Atlantic, the newly-orphaned Equiano begins to model social relations based on kinship, inventing a sequence of quasi-filiative ties to counter the social death ofslavery. Likewise, during the years of antislavery activism, he deploys an idiom of racial affiliation to create fraternal alliances with fellow African slaves in the diaspora—the enslaved in the Caribbean and the disenfranchised in England and America—and the native inhabitants on continental Africa, in an effort to connect the immediate goal of abolition with the more ambitious program of racial uplift, the legislative repeal of the slave trade with African nationalism. Situating kinship at the intersection of the biological and the social, the consanguineal and the contractual, this essay considers the primacy of familial, racial, and national attachments that Equiano fosters throughout his life. Kinship in The Interesting Narrative (1789), I argue, is not a static structure but a dynamic site of praxis, a mechanism for forging filiative and affiliative connections—and, indeed, the bedrock of individual self-constitution and racial renewal.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6547
Print ISSN
0013-8304
Pages
pp. 923-954
Launched on MUSE
2014-09-03
Open Access
No
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