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The Problem of Slavery as History

The Problem of Slavery as History

Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    The Problem of Slavery as History
    Book Description:

    Why did slavery-an accepted evil for thousands of years-suddenly become regarded during the eighteenth century as an abomination so compelling that Western governments took up the cause of abolition in ways that transformed the modern world? Joseph C. Miller turns this classic question on its head by rethinking the very nature of slavery, arguing that it must be viewed generally as a process rather than as an institution. Tracing the global history of slaving over thousands of years, Miller reveals the shortcomings of Western narratives that define slavery by the same structures and power relations regardless of places and times, concluding instead that slaving is a process which can be understood fully only as imbedded in changing circumstances.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-17806-7
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 The Problem of Slavery as History
    (pp. 1-35)

    Slavery was and is a tragedy. It provokes outrage among the modern heirs to its divisive damages, as it should. All of us, whether white or black or merely observers to its racialized polarities, are in that same agonized company. These modern legacies of the Atlantic slave trade in the Americas and in Europe remain an emotional field of battle in the culture wars of modern nations. For racially identified descendants of the enslaved in the present, slavery in the past provokes animated claims for justice, apologies, and financial reparations. The complementing heritage on the part of those who seem...

  5. 2 History as a Problem of Slaving
    (pp. 36-72)

    The demonstrated—but relatively timeless, and lamented more than explained—ubiquity of slaving throughout the world’s history, historicized, becomes a strategy readily explicable in terms of the marginality of the slavers suggested in the opening chapter in this book. This chapter extends the discussion of the epistemology of history to problematize the conventional, still significantly Eurocentric and structural approach to the history of the world. Here I sketch a historical vision of slaving over some thirty to fifty thousand years, centering on strategies of slaving as both means and consequences of major innovations in the human narrative. The historical processes...

  6. 3 Slavery and History as Problems in Africa
    (pp. 73-118)

    In Africa, history and slavery present problems of a distinctive peculiarity, though one no less politicized than slaving elsewhere in the world. Modern historiography’s preoccupation with change as progressive and the racial politics of remembering slavery, mostly in the New World, for a long time (and arguably still in some quarters) excluded the continent entirely from the conceptual domains of both slavery and history. These exclusionary modern lenses, trained on Africa largely from perspectives outside the continent itself, had little bearing on the particular priorities and historical processes of slaving in Africa.

    In this chapter I review these background omissions...

  7. 4 Problematizing Slavery in the Americas as History
    (pp. 119-162)

    In the Americas, history and slavery are problems, in many senses: moral, political, and epistemological. It is the last of these conceptual senses that organizes the material in this chapter. History and slavery both seem familiar. We know too much about them, or think we do. But, as products of both, we are compromised as historians. We live in and with them. So they are politics; politics are ideological; and ideology, as earlier chapters have argued, is meant to obscure the diversity and dynamics of the experiences and motivations that create historical processes.

    In chapters 1 and 2 I argued...

  8. Appendix: Schematic Historical Sequences of Slaving Chapters 2–4
    (pp. 163-172)
  9. Notes
    (pp. 173-210)
  10. Index
    (pp. 211-218)