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Black IntersectionalitiesA Critique for the 21st Century$
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Monica Michlin and Jean-Paul Rocchi

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9781846319389

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781846319389.001.0001

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Benjamin Franklin’s Ethnic Drag – Notes on Abolition, Satire, and Affect

Benjamin Franklin’s Ethnic Drag – Notes on Abolition, Satire, and Affect

(p.84) 6 Benjamin Franklin’s Ethnic Drag – Notes on Abolition, Satire, and Affect
Black Intersectionalities

Carsten Junker

Liverpool University Press

This chapter discusses a relatively neglected satirical attack on slavery by Benjamin Franklin, “Sidi Mehemet Ibrahim on the Slave Trade” (1790). It examines the maneuvers employed in the text to displace debates over enslavement practices in the United States onto a distant temporal, spatial, and political plane. The chapter reads the mobilization of the generic framework and affective economies of the Barbary captivity narrative as a textual performance of “ethnic drag.” It discusses the ambivalent effects of this performance to engage with the absent issue of the dehumanization of enslaved blacks. It is argued that Franklin’s satire ultimately remains confined to the realm of a master discourse about the most adequate economic and political forms and norms of a modern state. The abolitionist text thus partakes in establishing and normalizing hegemonic speaking position in the late eighteenth-century Transatlantic sphere.

Keywords:   abolition, affect, Barbary captivity narrative (genre of the), enslavement, Franklin, Benjamin, ethnic drag, satire, slavery

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