The Anatomy of Blackness: Science and Slavery in an Age of Enlightenment

The Anatomy of Blackness: Science and Slavery in an Age of Enlightenment

by Andrew S. Curran
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Johns Hopkins University Press
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The Anatomy of Blackness: Science and Slavery in an Age of Enlightenment

This volume examines the Enlightenment-era textualization of the Black African in European thought. Andrew Curran rewrites the history of blackness by replicating the practices of eighteenth-century readers. Surveying French and European travelogues, natural histories, works of anatomy, pro- and anti-slavery tracts, philosophical treatises, and literary texts, Curran shows how naturalists and philosophes drew from travel literature to discuss the perceived problem of human blackness within the nascent human sciences, describes how a number of now-forgotten anatomists revolutionized the era's understanding of black Africans, and charts the shift of the slavery debate from the moral, mercantile, and theological realms toward that of the "black body" itself. In tracing this evolution, he shows how blackness changed from a mere descriptor in earlier periods into a thing to be measured, dissected, handled, and, often, brutalized. Penetrating and comprehensive, The Anatomy of Blackness shows that, far from being a monolithic idea, eighteenth-century Africanist discourse emerged out of a vigorous, varied dialogue that involved missionaries, slavers, colonists, naturalists, anatomists, philosophers, and Africans themselves.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781421401508
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date: 08/15/2011
Pages: 328
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Acknowledgments xiii

Introduction: Tissue Samples in the Land of Conjecture 1

Defining le Nègre 6

The New Africanist Discourse after 1740 11

The Contexts of Representation 15

Representing Africanist Discourse 18

Anatomizing the History of Blackness 26

1 Paper Trails: Writing the African, 1450-1750 29

The Early Africanists: The Episodic and the Epic 32

Rationalizing Africa 38

The Birth of the Caribbean African 48

Jean-Baptiste Labat 58

Labat on Africa 62

Processing the African Travelogue: Prévost's Histoire générate des voyages 67

Rousseau's Afrique 70

2 Sameness and Science, 1730-1750 74

The Origin of Shared Origins 76

Toward a "Scientific" Monogenesis 79

Historicizing the Human in an Era of Empiricism: The Role of the Albino 87

Creating the Blafard 95

Buffonian Monogenesis: The Nègre as Same 105

Blackness Qualified: Breaking down the Nègre 107

The Colonial African and the Rare Buffonian Je 113

3 The Problem of Difference: Philosophes and the Processing of African "Ethnography," 1750-1775 117

The "Symptoms" of Blackness: Africanist "Facts," 1750-1770 118

Montesquieu and the "Refutation" of Difference 130

The Nagging Context of Montesquieu's Anti-slavery Diatribe 133

Voltaire: The Philosophe as Essentialist 137

Voltaire and the Albino of 1744 142

Voltaire, the Nègre, and Human Merchandise 145

Processing Africa and Africans in the Encyclopédic 149

The Preternatural History of Black African Difference 157

Teaching Degeneration: Valmont de Bomare's Dictionnaire d'histoire naturelle 162

4 The Natural History of Slavery, 1770-1802 167

The Hardening of Climate Theory and the Birth of New Racial Categories circa 1770-1785 169

Toward a Human Biopolitics circa 1750-1770 176

The Politics of Slavery in the Encyclopédie 181

Mercier and Saint-Lambert and the New Natural History 186

The Synchretism of the 1770s: Grappling with "Nature's Mistreatment" of the Nègre 190

Anti-slavery Rhetoric in Raynal's Histoire des deux Indes 194

The Era of Negrophilia 199

Epilogue: The Natural History of the Noir in an Age of Revolution 204

Coda: Black Africans and the Enlightenment Legacy 216

Notes 225

Works Cited 275

Index 295

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