Feb 232013
 

Django Unchained 2012, writer/director Quentin Tarantino, IMDB

(Spoilers ahead)

Briefly, Django Unchained is about a slave in the Old West, before the Civil War, who is freed by, then partnered with, a German bounty hunter, Dr. Schulz. They set off on a quest (explicitly compared to the German legend of Siegfried/Sigurd) to recover Django’s wife Broomhilda from a plantation known as “Candie Land”.

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Feb 232013
 

I’ve officially agreed to edit a collection of essays on the history of Master-slave relationships, commissioned by the Master Taino’s Training Academy.

I’m very excited about this project, as I will help create a contribution to the scholarship of the history of this field, and also get to work with people who have been involved in this subculture from its earliest days. My hope is that this book will have a place on shelves next to classics like Leatherfolk and Different Loving.

This project should run into 2014, at which point I will present the finished manuscript to MTTA for them to either publish themselves or present to a publisher.

Dec 052012
 

Davis, Robert C. Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800. Palgrave MacMillan, 2003 Amazon

What you might call “Mediterranean slavery”, of Christian Europeans captured through piracy or raids and enslaved in North Africa or the Near East, coexisted with Atlantic slavery, roughly paralleling the dates. While the numbers about Atlantic slavery are pretty solid, the numbers on Mediterranean slavery are far less so, and Davis is forced to piece together rough estimates from a variety of different sources.

Trying to pin down numbers of Barbary slavery is beyond the scope of this blog, and I don’t want to get into any kind of “oppression Olympics” about different slave economies. (Discussions of white slavery tend to bring out people with an axe to grind. One discussion of Barbary coast slavery on Fetlife included a post with a link to a white pride site. This included lengthy incoherent rants about the place of white people in history. One passage included an array of pictures of tribal people with facial tattoos or body modifications, followed by another array of white people with facial tattoos or piercings. The caption said that these white people took no pride in their heritage and were trying to imitate other races.)

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Nov 102012
 

Lott, Eric. Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class. Oxford University Press, 1993. Amazon

In tracing the long and crooked path from the reality of slavery to the fantasy of slavery, I’ve passed through blackface, or more generally whites imitating blacks.

Blackface minstrelsy was a very complex phenomenon. To begin with, it originated in the North East of the United States, not the South, and it was first performed by working-class whites, often Irish, who were perceived as only slightly above blacks in the grand scheme of things. Minstrelsy was an insulting parody of blacks, and an appropriation of black music, songs and dialect; it was also an expression of working-class whites’ anxieties about their precarious position in society, their resentment at efforts to free the black southern slave while leaving the white northern “wage slave” in the same dependent state.

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Oct 162012
 

Fitzgerald, William. Slavery and the Roman Literary Imagination. Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Initially I assumed that classical slavery had very little to do with Atlantic slavery, but subsequent research has suggested that the legacy of Roman and Greek ideas about slavery did inform both period thinking about Atlantic slavery and our modern fantasies about it.

Roman slavery was a very different institution than American slavery. Slaves were ethnically and culturally diverse, and did everything from the most skilled to the least skilled jobs. Slaves could be manumitted, becoming freedmen, and their children were born as citizens. Everybody regarded slavery as a fact of life, and there was no abolitionist movement.

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Oct 022012
 

Brooten, Bernadette J., ed. Beyond Slavery: Overcoming Its Religious and Sexual Legacies. Palgrave MacMillan, 2010.

Although Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religious leaders have always recognized the difference between slavery and marriage between men and women, they have sometimes applied concepts from slavery to marriage.

Pg. 8, “Introduction” by Bernadette J. Brooten

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Sep 242012
 


Roman Scandals is a 1933, pre-Hays code musical starring Eddie Cantor and featuring elaborate set piece dance number choreographed by Busby Berkeley. Presumably a parody of Biblical and/or classical Hollywood pictures like The Sign of the Cross (1932), Scandals gives up any pretense of drama and goes straight to the sexual decadence. The means dance numbers on elaborate sets performed by dozens or even scores of women dressed identically (the “Goldwyn Girls”, including a young Lucille Ball). If you want to have large numbers of scantily clad women moving around in a situation of high drama, you can’t go wrong with a slave market or auction scene.

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Sep 182012
 

Clissold, Stephen. The Barbary Slaves. Elek Books, 1977 Gbooks

Up until now, I had focused most of my attention on Atlantic slavery as an source for BDSM fantasies, but there are other influences that go back centuries. The older some historical event is, the more it has decayed into myth. It underlies more recent events. Abolitionists used Orientalist and Gothic ideas to talk about American slavery and in doing so harkened back centuries to Barbary Coast slavery, when Christians were enslaved by Muslims in North Africa and the Middle East. It was a roughly two-century period marked by Christian Europe’s relative rise as a world power and Muslim Northern Africa’s relative decline.

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