Catalogue


The anatomy of blackness : science & slavery in an age of Enlightenment /
Andrew S. Curran.
imprint
Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011.
description
xiv, 310 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
ISBN
1421401509 (hardcover : acid-free paper), 9781421401508 (hardcover : acid-free paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011.
isbn
1421401509 (hardcover : acid-free paper)
9781421401508 (hardcover : acid-free paper)
contents note
Introduction: Tissue samples in the land of conjecture -- Paper trails: writing the African, 1450-1750 -- Sameness and science, 1730-1750 -- The problem of difference: philosophes and the processing of African "ethnography," 1750-1755 -- The natural history of slavery, 1770-1802 -- Coda: black Africans and the enlightenment legacy.
catalogue key
7863669
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. [275]-293) and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2012-10-01:
This engrossing, comprehensive study traces 18th-century European thought on anatomical blackness of Africans. Following on the heels of Madeleine Dobie (Trading Places: Colonization and Slavery in Eighteenth-Century French Culture, CH, Jul'11, 48-6168), Curran (French, Wesleyan Univ.) provides a framework for understanding of European fascination with blackness, deftly situating debates among scientists and philosophes on the etiology of blackness. Curran's ability to dissect and explain complicated arguments of the period's major thinkers is impressive. He details in clear, succinct prose 18th-century Europe's attraction to the origins of black skin and the concomitant association with the African's presumed lack of humanness. Examining scientific treatises, travel diaries, and literary essays, he presents a detailed overview of evolutionary Africanist ethnology. In the textual analysis of countervailing arguments, he clearly delineates the reasoned thinking of philosophes and scientists regarding the sameness or difference of Africans as a human species or subspecies as justification for or refutation of slavery. What makes this book indispensable are the insights into the postulations on the part of well-meaning individual thinkers on this fundamental question of human differentia. Curran brings to the discussion leading figures (Montesquieu, Diderot, Voltaire, Rousseau) and the less familiar (George-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, Jean-Baptiste Labat, Olfert Dapper). Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. A. J. Guillaume Jr. Indiana University South Bend
Reviews
Review Quotes
This study reveals with striking clarity the complex interaction of the science of human difference in this period with other strands of Enlightenment thought as well as the practices of (French) slave trading and colonial slavery.
Curran beautifully illuminates and analyzes the complex field of Enlightenment-era thought on race, and shows how it shaped the broader society and culture. An exemplary work of intellectual, literary and cultural history.
Curran offers a more comprehensive view of this subject than anyone before him: showing how the slave islands of the Caribbean were, in effect, laboratories in which Europeans studied Africans; how sameness and difference chased each other in a hermeneutic circle from which we have still not entirely escaped. The Anatomy of Blackness combines meticulous, original scholarship with unflinching analytical judgments.
The most comprehensive analysis of Enlightenment science of race since Michele Duchet's Anthropologie et histoire au si cle des Lumi res. Curran's careful attention to the emerging sciences of dermal anatomy and albinism highlight tensions between environmentalist and essential explanations of racial difference in a wide range of canonical and understudied eighteenth-century texts, within the wider contexts of European colonialism, slavery, and abolitionism.
The most comprehensive analysis of Enlightenment science of race since Michele Duchet's Anthropologie et histoire au siècle des Lumières. Curran's careful attention to the emerging sciences of dermal anatomy and albinism highlight tensions between environmentalist and essential explanations of racial difference in a wide range of canonical and understudied eighteenth-century texts, within the wider contexts of European colonialism, slavery, and abolitionism.
Wide-ranging, well-researched, and compellingly argued, The Anatomy of Blackness makes a substantial and valuable contribution to our understanding of the complexities of Enlightenment theories of racial difference. Curran's turn from the linear, figurehead-driven histories that describe the crystallization of the concept of race within classification systems to the halting, uncertain elaboration of environmentalist and anatomically based explanations throughout the period represents an important shift in the ways these questions have been treated.
A major contribution to the study of the uses of natural history, the presence and absence of universalism in the Enlightenment, and the origins of modern racial thought.
[An] excellent and important study... beautifully written and illustrated.
Curran has produced a powerful argument about how Europeans defined not only Africans but themselves in the early modern period; about how depictions of the 'other' furnished slavers and planters with the necessary intellectual justifications for slavery; about how natural science has the (frightening) ability to define both body and soul.
Curran's approach to intellectual history is an exciting one that transcends the oft-written biographies and other author-centered discussions. His focus on trends and his immersion in the writings of the time creates an accurate rather than anachronistic mindset, which is truly useful for historians.
Curran's Francotropism and medical background enable him to develop insights that should prove important to the ongoing transnationalization and discipline-blurring of literary and cultural studies.
The Anatomy of Blackness is an intense and challenging reading experience, but one that certainly repays the effort.
This engrossing, comprehensive study traces 18th-century European thought on anatomical blackness of Africans... Curran's ability to dissect and explain complicated arguments of the period's major thinkers is impressive.
This is an important contribution to an important topic. But it is also a model of how intellectual history should be done. Curran moves well beyond the parade of Big Thinkers that have long dominated the history of ideas. He reads them, to be sure, but he also reads what they read. By this technique, he moves deeper and deeper into the culture of ethnography, anatomy, and slavery in search of the origins and forms of "Blackness."
A definitive statement on the complex, painful, and richly revealing topic of how the major figures of the French Enlightenment reacted to the enslavement of black Africans, often to their discredit. The fields of race studies and of Enlightenment studies are more than ready to embrace the type of analysis in which Curran engages, and all the more so in that his book is beautifully written and illustrated..
A highly intelligent book on an important topic.
A highly intelligent book on an important topic. The breadth of Andrew Curran's knowledge about the Enlightenment is astonishing... The book makes the convincing point not only that Africa is a major focus in the Enlightenment's imagination, but also that natural history and anthropology are central to understanding not only its scientific agenda, but also its humanitarian politics.
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, October 2012
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
This volume examines the Enlightenment-era textualization of the Black African in European thought. Andrew S. Curran rewrites the history of blackness by replicating the practices of eighteenth-century readers. Surveying French and European travelogues, natural histories, works of anatomy, pro- and anti-slavery tracts, philosophical treatises, and literary texts, Curran shows how naturalists and philosophes drew from travel literature to discuss the perceived problem of human blackness within the nascent human sciences, describes how a number of now-forgotten anatomists revolutionized the era's understanding of black Africans, and charts the shift of the slavery debate from the moral, mercantile, and theological realms toward that of the "black body" itself. In tracing this evolution, he shows how blackness changed from a mere descriptor in earlier periods into a thing to be measured, dissected, handled, and often brutalized. Penetrating and comprehensive, The Anatomy of Blackness shows that, far from being a monolithic idea, eighteenth-century Africanist discourse emerged out of a vigorous, varied dialogue that involved missionaries, slavers, colonists, naturalists, anatomists, philosophers, and Africans themselves.
Main Description
This volume examines the Enlightenment-era textualization of the Black African in European thought. Andrew Curran rewrites the history of blackness by replicating the practices of eighteenth-century readers. Surveying French and European travelogues, natural histories, works of anatomy, pro- and anti-slavery tracts, philosophical treatises, and literary texts, Curran shows how naturalists and philosophes drew from travel literature to discuss the perceived problem of human blackness within the nascent human sciences, describes how a number of now-forgotten anatomists revolutionized the era's understanding of black Africans, and charts the shift of the slavery debate from the moral, mercantile, and theological realms toward that of the "black body" itself. In tracing this evolution, he shows how blackness changed from a mere descriptor in earlier periods into a thing to be measured, dissected, handled, and, often, brutalized. Penetrating and comprehensive, The Anatomy of Blackness shows that, far from being a monolithic idea, eighteenth-century Africanist discourse emerged out of a vigorous, varied dialogue that involved missionaries, slavers, colonists, naturalists, anatomists, philosophers, and Africans themselves.
Back Cover Copy
This volume examines the Enlightenment-era textualization of the Black African in European thought. Andrew S. Curran rewrites the history of blackness by replicating the practices of eighteenth-century readers. Surveying French and European travelogues, natural histories, works of anatomy, pro- and anti-slavery tracts, philosophical treatises, and literary texts, Curran shows how naturalists and philosophes drew from travel literature to discuss the perceived problem of human blackness within the nascent human sciences. He also describes how a number of now-forgotten anatomists revolutionized the era's understanding of black Africans and charts the shift of the slavery debate from the moral, mercantile, and theological realms toward that of the "black body" itself. In tracing this evolution, he shows how blackness changed from a mere descriptor in earlier periods into a thing to be measured, dissected, handled, and often brutalized. "A definitive statement on the complex, painful, and richly revealing topic of how the major figures of the French Enlightenment reacted to the enslavement of black Africans, often to their discredit. The fields of race studies and of Enlightenment studies are more than ready to embrace the type of analysis in which Curran engages, and all the more so in that his book is beautifully written and illustrated." Symposium "This is an important contribution to an important topic. But it is also a model of how intellectual history should be done." New Books in History "The breadth of Andrew Curran's knowledge about the Enlightenment is astonishing... The book makes the convincing point not only that Africa is a major focus in the Enlightenment's imagination, but also that natural history and anthropology are central to understanding not only its scientific agenda, but also its humanitarian politics." Centaurus "Curran's Francotropism and medical background enable him to develop insights that should prove important to the ongoing transnationalization and discipline-blurring of literary and cultural studies." Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment "Curran's ability to dissect and explain complicated arguments of the period's major thinkers is impressive." Choice

This information is provided by a service that aggregates data from review sources and other sources that are often consulted by libraries, and readers. The University does not edit this information and merely includes it as a convenience for users. It does not warrant that reviews are accurate. As with any review users should approach reviews critically and where deemed necessary should consult multiple review sources. Any concerns or questions about particular reviews should be directed to the reviewer and/or publisher.

  link to old catalogue

Report a problem