Before the Human: Africans, Sovereigns, and Slaves

Sunday, January 7, 2018: 11:40 AM
Marriott Ballroom, Salon 1 (Marriott Wardman Park)
Herman Bennett, The Graduate Center of the City University of New York
How might the focus on eighteenth-century race and commodification obscure earlier and equally expansive ideas about difference? In taking up this question as a conceptual starting point, the proposed paper charts a different, if not lost, genealogy of difference that defined how Europeans in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries registered their encounter with Africans and subsequently classified some as subjects of sovereigns and other as sovereign-less subjects who could be enslaved. While this paper points to relegation of this earlier genealogy, it also delineates the ways that genealogy’s institutional legacy shaped alterity in early modern Latin America before being suppressed even further in the course of the eighteenth century.
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