Review: Marisa Fuentes, DISPOSSESSED LIVES

Professor Park's Blog

Sometimes the best thing a book can do is make you feel guilty. That is certainly the case with the book I’m gisting today.

There were more enslaved women in the colonial port town of Bridgetown, found on the western edge of Barbados, than any other demographic group. So why do they receive such little attention? Marisa J. Fuentes, in her provocative book Dispossessed Lives: Enslaved Women, Violence, and the Archive (UPenn Press, 2016), argues that the traditional archive was constructed in such a way to inflict perpetual violence upon women. Until that narrative is disrupted, historians continue to partake in this original sin. Fuentes’s book is, she explains, an attempt at “redress” (12). Dispossessed Lives follows the stories of a handful of women in the eighteenth century through the lens of documents that only peripherally mention them: a runaway named Jane, a mulatto brothel, an enslaved woman who was…

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