Resistance is Not Futile: Frederick Douglass on Panoptic Plantations and the Un-Making of Docile Bodies and Enslaved Souls

Philosophy and Literature 35 (2):251-268 (2011)


Frederick Douglass, in his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, describes how his sociopolitical identity was scripted by the white other and how his spatiotemporal existence was likewise constrained through constant surveillance and disciplinary dispositifs. Even so, Douglass was able to assert his humanity through creative acts of resistance. In this essay, I highlight the ways in which Douglass refused to accept the other-imposed narrative, demonstrating with his life the truth of his being—a human being unwilling to be classified as thing or property. As I engage selected passages and key events from Douglass's narrative, I likewise explore the ways in which the resistance tactics.


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Cynthia R. Nielsen
University of Dallas

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