Abstract

Abstract:

This essay resituates Frederick Douglass's turn to political abolitionism post-1851 within an Anglo-American discussion in legal hermeneutics about the concept of persona ficta: a legal fiction used to confer personhood on nonhuman entities, such as corporations. Douglass drew on this discussion, with roots in early modernity and a principal exponent in Thomas Hobbes, to adjudicate the unconstitutionality of slavery and the meaning of legal personhood. Rather than vouchsafe legal protections for the enslaved in a transcendent notion of humanity, Douglass sought justice in the idea that personhood is immanent to the artificial yet politically significant domain constituted by legal texts.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6547
Print ISSN
0013-8304
Pages
pp. 775-800
Launched on MUSE
2018-09-03
Open Access
No
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