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Specters of DemocracyBlackness and the Aesthetics of Politics in the Antebellum U.S.$
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Ivy G. Wilson

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195337372

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195337372.001.0001

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Introduction: In the Shadows of Citizenship

Introduction: In the Shadows of Citizenship

African Americans and Democracy's Alterity

(p.1) Introduction: In the Shadows of Citizenship
Specters of Democracy

Ivy G. Wilson

Oxford University Press

Beginning with a reading of a Sojourner Truth carte-de-visite and its epigrammatic phrasing, this introductory chapter prefigures Ralph Ellison's notion of the “shadow” and Jacques Derrida's notion of the “specter” to underscore the book's critique of democratic sociality in mid-19th century America. Using the context of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law and the 1857 Dred Scott decision to intimate the fraught condition of antebellum black political subjectivity, the chapter stages the book's central concern with aurality and visuality. On the one hand, it outlines how a preoccupation with the vernacular practices of vocal enunciation was part of a larger national rhetoric about democracy. On the other hand, it outlines how a preoccupation with the meanings of visual representations was tied to the graphic processes of imagining the citizen.

Keywords:   specter, shadow, democratic sociality, declaration of independence, Ralph Ellison, political subjectivity, shadow politics, Jacques Derrida

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