Race, sex, slavery: reading Fanon with Aucassin et Nicolette

Abstract

In Black Skin, White Masks, Frantz Fanon suggests that the history of slavery, and indeed the history of the construction of race itself, continues to enslave those constructed as black in the present. While much contemporary race theory identifies the construction of race as a phenomenon coextensive with modernity, medieval texts like Aucassin et Nicolette suggest a much deeper historical sedimentation of racial constructions, as well as their imbrication with class and gender. An examination of Aucassin et Nicolette in terms of these imbrications reveals the constructedness of these categories in the distant past, and allows them a more thorough historicization: the historical continuity from the Middle Ages to post-Hegelian phenomenology challenges traditional periodizations and extends Fanon’s understanding of the relations among race, class, gender and history.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    On the non-Christian Other as monster, see also Giffney (2012). On western Christian fantasies of Islam, see also Uebel (1996). On the concept of a ‘monstrous race,’ see Asa Simon Mittman’s essay in this issue.

  2. 2.

    On the effects of these different translations of Hegel’s Herrschaft und Knechtschaft, see Davis (2008, 45–46). She suggests that Kojève’s maîtrise et esclavage ‘is perhaps most faithful, in that it faces up to the repetitive historical logic of slavery in the feudal narrative’s mediation of sovereignty’ (Davis, 2008, 46).

  3. 3.

    Hannaford provides a detailed examination of such sedimentation, devoting somewhat more space to a discussion of issues related to those noted by Goldberg (Hannaford, 1996, 87–126).

  4. 4.

    See Hahn (2001, 10–19).

  5. 5.

    For quotation and further discussion of these passages, see Asa Simon Mittman’s essay in this issue.

  6. 6.

    The episode in question occurs in Roques (1963, 36).

  7. 7.

    This essay also appears as Chapter 5 of Fanon (1967). Problems with the latter translation, beginning with its misleading title, are discussed in Macey (1999, 8).

  8. 8.

    The Torelore episode occurs in Roques (1963, 29–33).

  9. 9.

    See also Verkerk (2001). For a thorough examination of the complexities of this tradition, see Braude (1997).

  10. 10.

    See the episode in Roques (1963, 4, cited above). On the history of such slave-buying transactions, see Heers (1981, 187).

  11. 11.

    Heers gives several thirteenth-century examples of Muslim women enslaved by European Christians (Heers, 1981, 31–44). On the dissemination of slavery from Marseille through inland Provence, see Heers (1981, 115–117). On Muslims enslaved in Christian France, and on the Provençal role in the slave trade, see also Verlinden (1955, 1:748–762, 792–799).

  12. 12.

    For a more detailed consideration of slavery and baptism, especially of women, and on the domestic duties of female slaves, see Heers (1981, 98–108, 158–163).

  13. 13.

    See the Roques edition, 2, ll. 23–33, for this exchange (Roques, 1963).

  14. 14.

    On concubinage of Muslim female slaves in Christian households, see also Heers (1981, 214–224).

  15. 15.

    On the ‘Belle Sarrasine,’ see Gilbert (1997, 222–225).

  16. 16.

    There are numerous analyses of this aspect of Hegel’s thought (for example, Taylor, 1975, 153–157).

  17. 17.

    See Gordon (1999) and Gibson (2003, 134).

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Sturges, R. Race, sex, slavery: reading Fanon with Aucassin et Nicolette. Postmedieval 6, 12–22 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1057/pmed.2014.41

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