Dismantling the master's house : the afterlife of slavery in twentieth-century representations of home
MetadataShow full item record
This dissertation explores the historical and contemporary interactions between blackness and the structure, sense, and practice of home. Informed by Afro-pessimist scholarship that finds traces of the logic of slavery in present-day cultural and social formations, this project describes the plantation as a tangle of conflicting, interacting, and antagonistic homes. Taking as its central object(s) the different structures of home on the plantation—for example, the white supremacist-masculinist dominion and racial anxiety that informs what home means for the slave-master, or the artful fugitive practices that allowed the enslaved to hide their homes in plain sight—this dissertation explores the way these social and material structures haunt representations of home in 20th century art and literature, thus mapping the locations where blackness and home constitute and produce one another. The intervention of this project is two-fold: First, it seeks to trouble the assumptions of certain strains of Afro-pessimist thought—particularly those invested in a totalizing narrative of perpetual, inescapable violence and oppression, rooted in plantation slavery but extant in the present. By looking at how black writers, thinkers, and visual artists in the 20th century engage the structure, space, and affect of home, this project charts a counterhistory of resistance and freedom rooted in the geography and culture of slavery but fugitive from its logics of domination. Second, it seeks to theorize “home” in a way that disengages the term from normative domesticity, opening the concept to include alternate ways of being at home not rooted in power or possession but rather in a sociality that antagonizes the normative domestic through its embrace of fugitivity. Following scholars who engage critical geography to disrupt flattened or overdetermined understandings of home, I look for moments that both confirm and disrupt dominant narratives about the legacy of slavery and its impact on home. My project thus works to complicate our understanding of how the past shapes and delimits individual and collective freedom in the present.