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On Lies: Strange Abundance in Slavery's Archive of Sex

General Programming

dateFebruary 29, 2024 timeThursday, 5:00pm EST location Fayerweather Hall, Room 411, Columbia University
  • The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities
  • Columbia Research Initiative on the Global History of Sexualities
email address [email protected]
  • Free and open to the public
Cover of Consent in the Presence of Force

This talk explores the work of surfacing the history of sex in antebellum slavery. Unlike records from earlier periods of slaveholding in the Atlantic world, the archives of 19th century US slaveholders are abundant, yet that abundance is marked by the fictions and delusions that seduced and gripped the imaginations of slaveholding authors. Taking as a given that black women appear in fleeting and distorted forms in these records, this talk explores methods through which historians might reconstruct histories of black women's survival on the backdrop of sex and slavery, with attention to the twin legacies of social history and ethical provocation in African American women's history and black feminist theory.

Emily Owens is the David and Michelle Ebersman Assistant Professor of History at Brown University and the author of Consent in the Presence of Force: Sexual Violence and Black Women's Survival in Antebellum New Orleans. Her work broadly considers the ways that racism and misogyny get expressed in ordinary–and intimate–life.