Abstract

Abstract:

The witch hunt that engulfed Salem, Massachusetts, and its environs in 1692 manifested long-standing conflicts over how, whether, and to what ends to count people. Although the two histories—the former a short-term crisis and the latter a long-simmering standoff with royal authorities—have until now been treated separately, tracing the origins of biopolitics requires investigating previously unrecognized interdependencies in the archive. This essay argues that colonial New England authorities' particular investment in ensuring that census counts serve divine purposes dovetails with the efforts to root out demonic threats to population in the Salem trials. Both endeavors involve scrutinizing reproductive processes and internalized affects to measure the health of the community. When contemporary chroniclers of the trials cite Jean Bodin, the political philosopher known both as the progenitor of population science and as the author of a witch-hunting handbook that inflamed seventeenth-century Europe, they do so as a way to turn the aftermath of the deadly panic into a lesson in how properly to feel like an enumerable population.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6490
Print ISSN
0003-0678
Pages
pp. 653-674
Launched on MUSE
2019-10-05
Open Access
No
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