Abstract

Abstract:

Plagiarism—the crime of stealing a slave or kidnapping and enslaving a free person—was widespread in nineteenth-century Cuba, yet it has been completely neglected by literary scholars. When examined through the prism of plagiarism, Cirilo Villaverde's Cecilia Valdés (1882) and Francisco Calcagno's Romualdo, uno de tantos (1891) allow us to perceive the anachronism and replaceability of bodies; that is, the experience of the long chain of deferrals, denials, and displacements required to treat some lives as disposable, according to the logic of globally asymmetrical structural inequalities. Plagiarism was simultaneously the concrete act of kidnapping a human being and the manifestation of an abstract economic process that endowed that body with value as both commodity and capital. As a socially constitutive vulnerability, this crime evinced the social practices—including violence, the forgery of documents, hypocrisy, disavowal, and sheer indifference—that sought to deny certain lives the protections commonly associated with freedom and being from somewhere or having an origin. Both Cecilia Valdés and Romualdo pay close attention to these practices, showing how increasingly fundamental they were to eliding slaves' past in the context of the illegal slave trade.

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