GSF Graduate Scholars Colloquium - The Unpropertied Individual

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Speaker(s): Carolin Benack, PhD Candidate
Speaker: Carolin Benack (English & GSF Certificat)
Respondent: Amanda Bennett (Literature & GSF Certificate)

RSVP to ls341@duke.edu by Oct. 17 for advance reading materials

Title: The Unpropertied Individual: (Un)Realizing Property in African American Fiction Around 1900

Ever since the United States' legal inception, the Lockean understanding of property in the self--the ownership of one's body and labor that allows for the acquisition of possessions and wealth--has been a core component in the conceptualization of individuality. And yet, the conceptual stability of this propertied individual also relied on its Other: the enslaved. As property was inherently defined against Blackness, the abolition of slavery produced a crisis of the American individual. This chapter surveys African American fiction in the post-abolition US to trace the cultural and legal practices that continued to deny Black Americans their newly acquired property rights. Novels by Frances E.W. Harper, Sutton Griggs, Pauline Hopkins, and W.E.B. Du Bois not only discern the crucial role of race in the construction of individualism but also seek to articulate a new form of individuality: one that can assert itself, even as its claims to property remain tenuous.
Sponsor

Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies

GSF Graduate Scholars Colloquium - The Unpropertied Individual

Contact

Wynmor, Julie
919-684-3655