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Wesleyan University | Center for the Humanities


How she begot the violence


How She Begot The Violence: Making Violence Against Black Women Ordinary


Emily Owens • Brown University

October 18 @ 6 P.M. via Zoom 

This talk takes stock of the legal and ideological underpinnings of violence against enslaved women. Here, I unpack the legal doctrine of rape law to elaborate what Harrriet Jacobs knew almost two hundred years ago, that is, that “no shadow of law” existed to protect black women from “from insult, from violence, or even from death…inflicted by fiends who bear the shape of men.” In addition to analyzing the legal structure that invited sexual contact with black women under any circumstance, I return to Jacobs to think through the cultural value of consent. I show that the legal impossibility of rape and the slaveholders’ insistence on black women’s utterance of consent together unlock the puzzle of (slaveholding) sexual violence: when sex is articulated as a transaction, women become imagined as culpable for the harm done to them.

Consent & Subjection
View Fall  2021 Lecture List

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