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The Governmentality of Slavery in Colonial Boston, 1690-1760

Dominik Nagl

Pages 5 - 26


This article explores slavery in colonial Boston as a contradictory legal, cultural, and religious institution by introducing the concepts of ‘pastoral power’ and ‘governmentality’ as analytical instruments to the study of slavery. New England slavery was a culturally specific form of bondage that still rested upon pre-modern and religious notions of contract. An all-pervasive Puritan religious culture, and the spatial and social proximity of the slaves and their masters, gave New England slavery its unique character and produced a distinct way of slave management that is best described as ‘Puritan governmentality of slavery.’ In addition, it is suggested that the concept of governmentality addresses some of the criticisms leveled against Eugene Genovese’s model of slavery as ‘paternalism,’ as it allows for the recognition of resistance as a defining feature of slavery.


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