Title

Terrorism: Power Assertion and Resistance to Power in Late 1800s Slave Narratives

Lead Author Major

English

Format

Oral Presentation

Faculty Mentor Name

Jeffrey Hole

Faculty Mentor Department

English

Abstract/Artist Statement

In this essay, I will address the concept of terrorism as it is portrayed in slave narratives of the late 1800s. Looking at Gray's The Confessions of Nat Turner and Melville's Benito Cereno, I will argue that terrorism in these texts functions as the expression of asymmetric conflict. Terrorism emerges as the product of the institution of slavery and the way in which its power relations were structured. My argument is primarily informed by Michel Foucault's work "The Subject and Power." In analyzing relationships of power Foucault suggests "taking the forms of resistance against different forms of power as a starting point...using this resistance as a chemical catalyst so as to bring to light power relations, locate their position, and find out their point of application and the methods used" (Foucault, 780). In looking at terrorism through this framework, terrorism emerges as both the exercise of power and a form of resistance against power. I will also argue that the transition from the state's monopoly on violence, which sometimes took the shape of terrorism, to a political economy in which violence is used by individuals to attack symbols of state power, takes place following the American and French Revolutions. The ideals that animate both conflicts influence the transition in the political economy of violence because both were born of the citizens' perception that the state had committed a transgression, and through violent revolt sought to correct these transgressions. Terrorism in late 1800s slave narratives plays out this tension between the state asserting its power and the slave resisting this expression of power.

Location

DeRosa University Center, Room 211

Start Date

20-4-2013 10:30 AM

End Date

20-4-2013 10:45 AM

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Apr 20th, 10:30 AM Apr 20th, 10:45 AM

Terrorism: Power Assertion and Resistance to Power in Late 1800s Slave Narratives

DeRosa University Center, Room 211

In this essay, I will address the concept of terrorism as it is portrayed in slave narratives of the late 1800s. Looking at Gray's The Confessions of Nat Turner and Melville's Benito Cereno, I will argue that terrorism in these texts functions as the expression of asymmetric conflict. Terrorism emerges as the product of the institution of slavery and the way in which its power relations were structured. My argument is primarily informed by Michel Foucault's work "The Subject and Power." In analyzing relationships of power Foucault suggests "taking the forms of resistance against different forms of power as a starting point...using this resistance as a chemical catalyst so as to bring to light power relations, locate their position, and find out their point of application and the methods used" (Foucault, 780). In looking at terrorism through this framework, terrorism emerges as both the exercise of power and a form of resistance against power. I will also argue that the transition from the state's monopoly on violence, which sometimes took the shape of terrorism, to a political economy in which violence is used by individuals to attack symbols of state power, takes place following the American and French Revolutions. The ideals that animate both conflicts influence the transition in the political economy of violence because both were born of the citizens' perception that the state had committed a transgression, and through violent revolt sought to correct these transgressions. Terrorism in late 1800s slave narratives plays out this tension between the state asserting its power and the slave resisting this expression of power.