Call for Abstracts / Collection on Urban Slavery

full name / name of organization: 
Jennie Lightweis-Goff
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Urban Slavery: North, South, and Global South

Fifty years after Richard C. Wade's pioneering study of slavery in American cities, the term "urban slave" still reads as a paradox when considered in light of a popular culture that has made the rolling fields and white columns of the plantation house rather than the crowded lot and narrow façade of the townhouse the representative site of enslavement. This collection attempts to unsettle these associations, to complicate representations like that of Tara from *Gone With the Wind* – a set built on a backlot in Culver City, California – with analyses of urban sites of slavery: Frederick Douglass's Baltimore, Louisa Picquet's New Orleans, and Denmark Vesey's Charleston, among others. This collection investigates the urban locations of slave narratives, Abolitionist agitation, and literary texts as theoretical interventions that complicate the cultural centrality of the plantation. As the nation approaches the Sesquicentennial of Emancipation – with the usual anxiety about how (and why) we remember – the editor is particularly interested in accounts of slavery in the North and Extended Caribbean in order to contest regional, as well as urban/rural, binaries.

The scant critical work on urban slavery could be read in a scholar's enterprising afternoon, despite the fact that upwards of 15% of enslaved people were housed in cities. Many early historians – from Ulrich B. Phillips to C. Vann Woodward – argued that cities were incompatible with enslavement, in order to locate the plantation, agrarian labor, and staple crop economies as the chief concern of Slavery Studies. Excellent case studies of particular urban slave societies exist, but tell readers little about what urban slaves had – or lacked – in common across state and national boundaries. As literary and cultural scholars who study the formations of ideology as well as aesthetics, we feel empowered to explore not only particular representations of enslavement, but also reasons for the elision of urbanity in canonical histories of chattel slavery. The urgency of these questions is catalyzed not only by the Sesquicentennial, but also by an increased interest in urbanisms, perhaps most visible in post-census stories about the reputed "end of white flight" from cities. Urban Slavery: North, South, and Global South – with its focus on the 19th century, pre-migratory moment – provides an alternative timeline to conventional stories about African Diasporic populations moving from the 'land' to the city after the first World War.

Currently, this collection is under consideration with the University Press of Mississippi. Abstracts of 300 – 500 words should be sent as .pdf attachments to by August 1, 2012. Queries are welcomed in advance of the deadline.