CFP – “Slave Provisioning in the West Indies and the South in the Era of Abolitionism: Between Rhetoric and Practice” (AHA Panel Proposal)

James Myers's picture

2019 AHA Call for Papers

We are seeking papers for a panel at the upcoming 2019 AHA meeting in Chicago.

Trends in scholarship over the past decade increasingly illustrates the sentiment that undergirded David Hancock’s famous phrase “we are all Atlanticists now.” This point is particularly salient in regard to how historians approach and understand Antebellum defenses of slavery. Southern planters were acutely aware of the rhetoric and practices that their British predecessors had employed to overcome social, economic, and political challenges in the West Indies. The failure of the West Indian Complex did not discourage the South; in fact, it reaffirmed their dedication to the defense of slavery and offered relevant lessons over how to engage in the struggle. One of the many lessons they learned from the West Indian Experiment was that food production systems were of immense importance in both practice and presentation for maintaining slavery.

Panel Description

From the 1830s onward, the Southern planters increasingly pursued self-provisioning by the enslaved as a means to strengthen their regime politically, economically, and socially in the face of slave resistance, economic pressures, and the threat of external abolitionism. Slaves growing their own food reduced overhead, potentially mollified the enslaved, and offered another tool to support the false-image of the “benevolent” planter; in short, these lessons from the West Indies offered a vision of more complete mastery and subtle tyranny that could withstand both internal and external threats. They would be increasingly profitable, socially stable, “morally” unimpeachable, and ultimately ascendant in a way that would silence the rising tide of voices that would denounce their ambitions.

This panel will explore both the practice and rhetoric of self-provisioning within Atlantic slave societies in the period following British Emancipation. We will highlight these practices’ origins in the Caribbean, their role in British pro-slavery rhetoric and practice, their transference to Southern mentalities regarding the political economy of slavery, and the manifestations thereof in rhetoric and practice among Southern planters prior to the Civil War. We will find that the study of food production systems is a uniquely effective lense through which to see the interconnectedness of Atlantic slave societies in the era of abolitionism. We will dive into the powerful nature of provisioning systems within practical, rhetorical, and philosophical struggles over slavery and freedom. Finally, we will highlight the dynamism and complexity that defined Southern political economy on the eve of the Civil War.

Submission Details

Should you be interested in participating, please email a paper abstract (300 words) and bioparagraph (250 words) to no later than February 12th. Please indicate if you will need audiovisual equipment or if you would like attach a professional website to the submission. If you have any questions, please contact James Myers at the above address.

K. James Myers

PhD Student, Rice University