Page of

With One Little Blast of Their Mouths: Speech, Humanity, and Slavery

With One Little Blast of Their Mouths: Speech, Humanity, and Slavery

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction With One Little Blast of Their Mouths: Speech, Humanity, and Slavery
Source:
The Freedom of Speech
Author(s):
Miles Ogborn
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226657714.003.0001

This chapter establishes the book’s approach. Drawing on a wide literature, it identifies speech as key to the central contradiction of racialized slavery: that slavery depended upon the human capacities of subjects whose humanity was simultaneously denied them on the basis of their race, and that the crucial human capacity for European Enlightenment thinkers was the power of speech. This is examined in three ways. First, by developing a dual idea of ‘The Freedom of Speech’ as both the ways in which the policing of speech was used to divide the free from the unfree, and how speech in practice always undermined or exceeded those divisions. Second, the exemplification of this through a close examination of the work of the pro-slavery historian, politician, and planter Edward Long, who attempted to justify racialized slavery by blurring the boundaries between human and non-human animals, and their alignment with those who can and cannot speak. Third, outlining the book’s theoretical underpinnings to develop an historical geography of speech practices that offers an alternative to the dominant model of discourses, texts, and readers through which critical theory has understood space, power, and meaning in global and imperial histories and geographies.

Keywords:   humanity, speech practices, slavery, freedom, Enlightenment, Edward Long, race, critical theory

Sign In

Copyright © 2021. All rights reserved.
Privacy Policy and Legal Notice