Historical Slaveries in Incomparable Perspective

Zach Sell, Brown University

The purpose of this presentation is to inquire into the practice of comparison in the history of slavery. It considers the long genealogy of comparative slavery in the nineteenth century while also discussing the political, conceptual, and historical stakes of the practice of comparison. I consider the lasting impact that nineteenth century practices of comparison had upon subsequent comparative approaches to the study of slavery, introducing both the promises and limits of this practice. I further examine subsequent historical and sociological approaches to comparative slavery and trace this nineteenth century influence. I also examine approaches to slavery that have emphasized the singularity of individual slavery formations with an approach prioritizing the contextual significance of a given slavery formation and the problem that this significance seems to present to the practice and politics of comparative approaches to slavery. I conclude by considering the limits of global histories of comparative slavery while allowing for an approach to the history of slavery that recognizes interlinked and unconnected slavery formations.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 145. The Future of Comparative-Historical Social Science Iii: Recovering Submerged Traditions