Abstract

Abstract:

From the late-eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth century, abolitionists used depictions of hungry animals such as sharks, birds, and dogs to capture the consumptive logic of chattel slavery. In the hands of white abolitionists, these tropes offered powerful condemnations of the appetites driving the slave system, but they also risked implying that enslaved people were "natural" prey and passive victims. In response, African American abolitionists reworked hungry animal tropes to emphasize resistance and to offer a more nuanced picture of the psyche of enslavers. Building on recent scholarship on animals in the discourse on slavery, this essay reveals that the threat of consumption is a critical (and overlooked) aspect of these tropes, allowing commentators to show how the slave system fuses abstract economics and lived experience, instinctive impulses and careful strategy.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1558-9595
Print ISSN
0004-1610
Pages
pp. 25-53
Launched on MUSE
2021-06-10
Open Access
No
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