Abstract

Abstract:

This essay reads forms of "premature knowing" in Harriet Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861) in relation to the nineteenth-century economy in slave reproductivity. Claiming that Jacobs's story exemplifies strategies of resistance that become possible at a critical remove from both traditional gender roles and legal personhood defined through self-possession, the essay demonstrates how Jacobs develops a counterlogic of finance that she uses against her oppressors. The essay situates this counterlogic within a genealogy of neoliberal human capital that traces its development on both sides of the color line and in relation to the history of labor free and unfree. Identifying a key genealogical antecedent to human capital in the speculative market in reproductive slavery, the essay argues that Jacobs's self-investment practice seeks not to possess the self but to free it from possession. Hence the essay positions Jacobs's narrative as part of a counterhistory of American liberalism and as a crucial index for theorizing a biopolitics of the unfree.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6490
Print ISSN
0003-0678
Pages
pp. 697-718
Launched on MUSE
2019-10-05
Open Access
No
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