Stigmata: Embodying the scars of slavery

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Deborah McDowell has observed that while black men wrote most of the slave narratives, black women have written the majority of contemporary novels about slavery—novels that emphasize “not what was done to slave women, but what they did with what was done to them” (146). I would argue that black women writers’ investment in contemporary novels of slavery is rooted in the history of partus sequitur ventrem—the child follows the condition of the mother. Thus the mother’s body determined the slave status of her offspring. Through this doctrine, the mother’s body serves as a border to police the purity of the nation’s boundary (Patton 124). In Bordering on the Body: The Racial Matrix of Modern Fiction and Culture, Laura Doyle notes, “In the race-bounded economy the mother is a maker and marker of boundaries, a generator of liminality …” (27). This position of “maker and marker of boundaries” places slave women in a rather precarious position.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationImagining the Black Female Body
Subtitle of host publicationReconciling Image in Print and Visual Culture
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9780230115477
ISBN (Print)9780230107052
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


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