In order to better understand why and how subhuman treatment arose and its effects on slaves in the Middle Passage, I have chosen to focus my research around how the presentation of slaves being treated differs according to different accounts in their rhetorical context. My research will center on the book The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano by Olaudah Equiano, in which the author recounts his experience as a slave going through the slave trade. By reading Equiano in relation to Ring Shout, Wheel About: The Racial Politics of Music and Dance in North American Slavery, by Katrina Thompson, and Domingos Álvares, African Healing, and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World, by James Sweet, it becomes possible to understand the complexity of slave objectification in the Middle Passage.
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano is a particularly interesting object because it is primary, in that he is telling us, in the first person, about his own experiences. Personal accounts from slaves are scarce, and so, this is a crucial source in analyzing the reactions to slaves being objectified in the slave trade. Equiano was a slave in Virginia for a short period of time, but the majority of Equiano 's life as a slave was serving the captains of slave ships and British navy vessels. Due to increased time on a slave ship, Equiano experienced much more firsthand exposure to the transatlantic slave trade than any other slave, allowing us to get a deeper look into a slave’s perspective. Following his life journey can allow us to trace his experiences and thoughts that may not be reported by the conductors of the slave trade, where the majorit...
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...atment arose for economic purposes, and thus, a connection can be established with the Davies and Lovejoy.
Why were the slaves treated as if they were subhuman? How did the ideas of slaves being subhuman bring about different treatment of slaves? What effects did these kinds of treatment have on the slaves?
How did the rhetorical context of the accounts affect the presentation of the treatment to its audience? In other words, how does the presentation differ when a slave is recounting an event from that of a conductor of the slave trade?
How does the process of going from a human to an object take place? Is someone who becomes a slave stripped of their humanity at one specific moment or does it happen gradually? Why does this happen? What prevented the slaves from resisting their objectification? Why did society allow this inhumane treatment of slaves?
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