Slavery, Race, and the Law During the Long Eighteenth-Century | DEMOS21

This is a virtual event on Zoom. Registration is mandatory.
Monday, March 22, 2021 - 18:00

The Center for Critical Democracy Studies at The American University of Paris and Professor Miranda Spieler invite you to the fourth symposium of a 7-part series on "Race, Law and Justice."

Race And The Docile Body:Politics Of Blackness, Social Justice, And Law In The Eighteenth-Century French Military (Christy Pichichero)

This paper explores the intersection of two juridical arenas in the eighteenth-century French empire: laws concerning slavery and policing Black bodies and those regulating the military. Black and other men of color served in French armed forces in theaters across the empire throughout the eighteenth century, some enlisting as freemen and others as enslaved with a promise of freedom through military service. Their recruitment, training, and career trajectories held extraordinary importance for multiple stakeholders, from the slaver Colonial lobby and royal ministers to military officers and the Black soldiers themselves. Historians have engaged in dynamic exchanges regarding Foucault’s concept of “docile bodies” and its historical accuracy in militaries of the eighteenth century in France and other contexts. This paper constitutes a critical intervention in this scholarly debate by interrogating the intersection of race in the discipline of militarized bodies and its implications in the contexts of the law, politics, military endeavors, and notions of social justice.

Ami Des Noirs And Slave Trader The Chevalier De Boufflers (1735-1815) Between Paris And Senegal (Miranda Spieler)

There remains a parrot for the queen, a horse for Maréchal de Castries, a little captive for Monsieur de Beauvau, a sultan chicken for the Duc of Laon, an ostrich for Monsieur Nivernais, and a husband for you (19 July 1786). So wrote the Chevalier de Boufflers, governor of Senegal, as he sailed home on a ship laden with gifts for patrons and loved ones. A little captive was, in plainer terms, an African toddler. She was one of four or five small children whom Boufflers purchased in Senegal and dispatched to Paris in defiance of a royal edict (1777) banning “blacks, mulattos, and other people of color” from the kingdom. Bouffler’s reckoning with slavery unfolded between the advent of race laws in domestic France and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. In 1788, one year after leaving Senegal, Boufflers joined the Society of the Friends of the Blacks, a revolutionary club that soon gained undeserved notoriety among West Indian planters as a conclave of abolitionist firebrands. This paper will situate Bouffler’s tepid embrace of antislavery in light of his racial views, his fetishizing of African children, and his oversight of a giant commerce in African captives at the apex of the French slave trade. This paper is drawn from a manuscript that looks to the history of slaves and masters in Paris to sketch the city’s transformation into an imperial capital dependent on slavery on the eve of the French Revolution. The dream of French universalism, as described in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, arose in a setting that was singularly ill-suited to making that dream a reality.

Christy Pichichero

Christy Pichichero is an associate professor of French and history and Director of Faculty Diversity at George Mason University and the current president of the Western Society for French History. Her first book, The Military Enlightenment: War and Culture from Louis XIV to Napoleon (2017), was a finalist for the Kenshur Book Prize for the best interdisciplinary book in eighteenth-century studies. She is currently writing two books: the first examines processes of racialization in eighteenth-century Europe; the second is about war and humanism. As an activist scholar, Pichichero organizes pedagogical workshops and roundtables on diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism at institutions throughout the United States.

Miranda Spieler

Miranda Spieler is an associate professor of history at the American University of Paris. She is the author of Empire and Underworld: Captivity in French Guiana (Harvard University Press, 2012), which received the American Historical Society’s George Mosse prize and J. Russell Major Prize. Her work-in-progress, Slaves in Paris, reconstructs the lives of slaves and masters using hitherto undiscovered archival materials to construct a global history of Old Regime Paris as an imperial capital. Her scholarship is particularly concerned with the meaning of personhood, the architecture of legal space, and the role of law in enabling state violence.

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