This workshop will discuss the precirculatedfirst chapter from Jeannine DeLombard’s current book manuscript, “Bound to Respect: Democratic Dignity and the Indignities of Slavery.” (Please click the “Download Reading” button above.)
For many of us today, the artifice of legal personhood – the corporate person in particular – provokes outrage. Focusing on the legal fiction of slave personhood, this paper argues that in the 19th-century U.S., the greater danger came from naturalizing this artifice by attaching it to actual African American people, regardless of condition. This reconsideration of legal personhood contributes to current efforts by political theorists, legal historians, classicists, and philosophers to historicize the concept of dignity prior to the 20th-century human rights regime. DeLombard contends that what critic and novelist Ralph Ellison once called “the indignities of slavery” pertained less to the metaphysical value of humans than to the status of legal persons. Brown-bag lunches are welcome.
Jeannine DeLombard is Associate Professor of English at UC Santa Barbara. She is the author of In the Shadow of the Gallows: Race, Crime, and American Civic Identity (Penn, 2012) and Slavery on Trial: Law, Abolitionism, and Print Culture (UNC, 2007).
Sponsored by the IHC’s Slavery, Captivity, and the Meaning of Freedom Research Focus Group