The Black Reproductive: Unfree Labor and Insurgent Motherhood (Paperback)

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How Black women’s reproduction became integral to white supremacy, capitalism, and heteropatriarchy—and remains key to their dismantling

In the United States, slavery relied on the reproduction and other labors of unfree Black women. Nearly four centuries later, Black reproductivity remains a vital technology for the creation, negotiation, and transformation of sexualized and gendered racial categories. Yet even as Black reproduction has been deployed to resolve the conflicting demands of white supremacy, capitalism, and heteropatriarchy, Sara Clarke Kaplan argues that it also holds the potential to destabilize the oppressive systems it is supposed to maintain.

The Black Reproductive convenes Black literary and cultural studies with feminist and queer theory to read twentieth- and twenty-first-century texts and images alongside their pre-emancipation counterparts. These provocative, unexpected couplings include how Toni Morrison’s depiction of infanticide regenders Orlando Patterson’s theory of social death, and how Mary Prince’s eighteenth-century fugitive slave narrative is resignified through the representational paradoxes of Gayl Jones’s blues novel Corregidora. Throughout, Kaplan offers new perspectives on Black motherhood and gendered labor, from debates over the relationship between President Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, to the demise of racist icon Aunt Jemima, to discussions of Black reproductive freedom and abortion. 

The Black Reproductive gives vital insight into the historic and ongoing conditions of Black unfreedom, and points to the possibilities for a Black feminist practice of individual and collective freedom.

About the Author

Sara Clarke Kaplan is associate professor of ethnic studies and critical gender studies at the University of California, San Diego, and cofounder of UCSD’s Black Studies Project. Her writing has been published in a number of journals, including American Quarterly, American Literary History, Callaloo, and the Journal of Black Women, Gender, and Families

Praise For…

"The Black Reproductive is a stunning work of theory and criticism. Sara Clarke Kaplan skillfully shows us how the appropriation, management, and policing of Black procreative, domestic, and quotidian reproduction has been a key mode of anti-blackness and, at the same time, a site of possibility for the articulation and practice of Black freedom. With keen attention to a wide range of policies, practices, and Black feminist refusals of the Black reproductive, Kaplan unfolds a moving story of the Black woman’s body and its reproductive labor as the scene of death and theft but also defiance and fugitivity. This brilliant elaboration of the Black reproductive not only challenges our concepts for analyzing anti-black terror but also reveals how Black women writers and artists effect a glitch in the machine of the Black reproductive, the very machine of terror. This is deep, urgent, moving scholarship for our time."—Erica R. Edwards, Rutgers University

"If the control of Black reproduction has been central to conditions of Black subjection, Sara Clarke Kaplan’s The Black Reproductive argues that a vision of Black freedom requires contending with the reproductive. She stages provocative readings of literary and cultural texts that emphasize the urgency of reading Black freedom through the lens of reproduction. Ultimately, Kaplan offers a vision of Black feminist theory that points us toward imagining collective freedom."—Jennifer C. Nash, Duke University

Product Details
ISBN: 9780816695690
ISBN-10: 0816695695
Publisher: Univ Of Minnesota Press
Publication Date: June 8th, 2021
Pages: 280
Language: English