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Property in Writing, Property on the Ground: Pigs, Horses, Land, and Citizenship in the Aftermath of Slavery, Cuba, 1880–1909

  • Rebecca J. Scott (a1) and Michael Zeuske (a2)

In the most literal sense, the abolition of slavery marks the moment when one human being cannot be held as property by another human being, for it ends the juridical conceit of a “person with a price.” At the same time, the aftermath of emancipation forcibly reminds us that property as a concept rests on relations among human beings, not just between people and things. The end of slavery finds former masters losing possession of persons, and former slaves acquiring it. But it also finds other resources being claimed and contested, including land, tools, and animals<\m>resources that have shaped former slaves' working lives to date, and that now shape their prospects for the future. When former slaves make claims to such resources, they may draw on an idea of customary possession, or they may assert rights to respect and remuneration. The resulting conflicts thrust into the open the links between freedom, property, and membership in the political community.On varying conceptions of property, see, among others, Carol M. Rose, “Possession as the Origin of Property” and “Property as Storytelling: Perspectives from Game Theory, Narrative Theory, Feminist Theory,” both in Carol M. Rose, Property and Persuasion: Essays on the History, Theory, and Rhetoric of Ownership (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1994). On “a person with a price” as one vernacular definition of the slave relation, see Walter Johnson, Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999).

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Comparative Studies in Society and History
  • ISSN: 0010-4175
  • EISSN: 1475-2999
  • URL: /core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history
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