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She Had Slain Her Favorite: White-Over-Black Ideology and the Rule of Law

Wed, October 13, 8:00 to 9:45am, (Eastern Standard Time), Virtual 5


This paper considers the relationship between “the slave’s fidelity” and the rule of law in the Union-occupied South in the aftermath of the Civil War. Attending to the case of a white woman who, weeks after the end of the Civil War, shoots and kills her former slave, and upon conviction of manslaughter by the occupying military commission, receives a $1,000 fine in lieu of incarceration, hard labor, or servitude, I am interested in the organizing violence utilized for the purpose of installing a racial regime beyond formal enslavement’s end. In thinking about organizing violence as originary violence, this paper foregrounds consideration of race, gender, and affect as technologies of legal power integral to the yoking of slavery and freedom and the creation of a post-emancipation racial state. Taking Anthony P. Farley’s seminal works, I am interested in how white-over-black ideology inscribes itself and is inscribed in order to pronounce slavery’s formal end and how the work of Saidiya Hartman, Stephen Best, Zakiyyah Iman Jackson, Hortense Spillers, Denise Ferreira da Silva, and Farley call attention to racialized-gendered forms of labor and affectability that are inextricable from the authority of law. Reflecting on Farley’s legacy, I consider how this case serves a unifying narrative, that finds legal points of agreement between Union-occupying forces and the white South in Reconstruction, that runs parallel to what Farley calls “the story of progress up from slavery is told juridically in the form of the rule of law.” I am interested in the relationship between the agentic slave (before and after slavery’s formal end), white-over-black ideology, and anti-black violence as a teleological technology. Following Farley’s oeuvre, I consider how black feminist, critical race, Marxist, and psychoanalytic generatively undermine historicist narratives of racial slavery and its afterlives.