J.E. Morgan, Emory University

Advisory Council Fellow


 “American Concubines: Gender, Race, Law, and Power”

My dissertation, American Concubines: Gender, Race, Law, and Power, examines how legal and cultural conceptions of marriage, family, race, and rape took shape around a form of long-term enslavement of women that often has been called “concubinage” in scholarship on Atlantic slavery. I argue that this practice was both a legal and cultural expression of white dominance and a space in which enslaved women fought against the terms of their enslavement in diverse and sometimes disparate ways that force us to consider the meaning of “resistance” under such conditions. Rather than being incidental in slave societies of the British Atlantic, sexual violence was a fundamental component of the development of culture and law in these societies in the eighteenth century and continued to shape laws and customs in southern states in the early U.S.

An overarching objective of my dissertation is exploring and evaluating critical and interdisciplinary methods to reveal elusive pieces of this history. I also investigate legal and rhetorical uses of the term “concubine” in archival sources as well as its use in secondary literature to examine how this term reveals or conceals issues of consent.


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