Taste and the Taint of Slavery
This chapter considers the relationship between the violence of slavery and the culture of conduct within the geography of enslavement itself. It reflects on the status of art and taste in the heart of American slavery. It argues that although members of the American plantocracy in Virginia (William Byrd and Thomas Jefferson, for example) sought to fashion their lives after those of British gentry, they could not separate themselves from the concrete materiality of plantation slavery. How, then, could a culture of taste be cultivated in the presence of a thriving slave economy? At the center of this chapter is the inescapable relation between the planters' striving for high culture and the deployment of violence as a mode of containing what was considered to be the danger of Africa. Africa and Africans enabled the wealth of the planter, but they needed to be exorcized so that white civilization could take hold in the new world.
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