Expropriating Reproduction, Generating Property – Enslaved Childbearing, Property Law & Racial Capitalism in the American South

02 September 2023, Version 1
This content is an early or alternative research output and has not been peer-reviewed at the time of posting.


Connecting critical theoretical literatures on racial capitalism, reproduction, and sexuality on the one hand, to scholarship on the history of American capitalism, the paper develops the framework of racial capitalism to highlight the crucial significance of enslaved (sexual) reproduction to slavery's capitalism in the nineteenth-century American South. Focusing on rules of property as an evolving technology of law the paper demonstrates how, in the three decades before the Civil War, southern courts carved out enslaved Black reproduction ("increase") as an independent, increasingly valuable, form of property in itself, with a market value that was intertwined with, but distinct from, the property value of the enslaved woman. By so doing, the paper argues that southern courts effectively extended slaveowners' property rights to an enslaved woman to include her reproductivity, simultaneously making race by making property – marking Blackness through women's unfree, commodified, reproduction, as singularly market-bound and always non-familial.


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