This article offers a close reading of The Order of Things by Michael Foucault and The Human Condition by Hannah Arendt, to argue that the positioning of the Human within scientific and political thought necessitates an underscoring of violence as it relates to blackness. This position interrogates how Arendt positions slavery in the Greek polis and the Roman res republica to establish her foci on modern political life. I offer an analysis of Prigg v. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, as complicating Arendt’s political dichotomy, by shifting focus to the legal history of US American slavery. Prigg rewrites and establishes the demarcations of US Federal and State law. However, the majority opinion and dissents make fleeting reference to the fugitive slave in question, Margaret Morgan, and the possibility that she may have been sexually violated while being forcibly returned to slavery. I conclude that the contours of this case, specifically the erasure of sexual violence, demonstrate how racial slavery provides contexts to modern political life not explored by Arendt’s primary concern with slavery in antiquity.
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This article reworks and expands on ideas from Engendering Blackness: Gender, Sexual Violence, and the Tales of Slavery, submitted as a dissertation to the University of California, Irvine.
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