Motherhood and the Invention of Race

Hypatia 22 (2):79-97 (2007)
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Abstract

This article attempts to do two things: reveal a continuity of structure in white supremacy in the U.S. between its initial invention in the seventeenth-century English colonies and the present, and advance a specific analysis of a moment in the process of that invention that involved the domination and redefinition of women. That moment was provided by the matrilineal servitude statute passed in Virginia in 1662. To highlight the meaning of this statute, the article begins with a portrait of a contemporary case in which a black woman is convicted of murder for bearing a stillborn child in South Carolina. By mapping a homology of structure between the earlier statute and the contemporary instance, a continuity in the structure of racialization is revealed that places it at the very foundation of the culture of the U.S.

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