Slavery and Gender

Mieko Nishida

in Atlantic History

ISBN: 9780199730414
Published online June 2012 | | DOI:
Slavery and Gender

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  • History of the Americas
  • European History
  • African History
  • History
  • Regional and National History


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Slavery and gender is a relatively new topic in Atlantic history. Studies of slavery and gender developed somewhat independently from each other until the 1990s. In the emergence of “new social history” in the 1960s with its “bottom-up” approach, historically marginalized groups of people—such as women, slaves, workers, immigrants, and minorities—finally became a legitimate subject of study. Accordingly, studies on slave life, family, community, and culture began to emerge. At the same time, women’s history began to examine the historical importance of womanhood and women’s collective means of social and political empowerment. In such studies, slaves and women came to be depicted respectively as not passive but active participants in history making and agents of social changes despite the “peculiar institution” and/or the odds of patriarchy and sexism in the male-dominant society. In the 1980s, US feminist historians’ major works on slave and elite women during the slavery regime also began to appear. After the publication of Scott 1986 (cited under Reference Works and Bibliographies), “gender” began to replace “women” in the historical vocabulary. This was a reflection of the new paradigm shift in the history profession, as historians began to examine relatedness between opposing “groups” and/or contrasting categories under such terms as gender, race, class, and ethnicity rather than focusing on one group or category of people (such as women or slaves) who have been victimized, oppressed, and/or marginalized in history. Unfortunately, however, some scholars simply used the term “gender” interchangeably with “woman” and/or “sex.” In the late 1980s, and throughout the 1990s, many monographs and anthologies were published on women and slavery. Yet, since the mid-1990s, in accordance of the gradual establishment of “gender history,” scholarly attempts have been made to write gender into the history of slavery and to examine the “gendered” dimension of slavery and emancipation in the Atlantic world, especially in the form of journal articles and book chapters. It is expected that many more scholarly monographs on the Atlantic world will appear in the near future, with a primary focus on slavery and gender. This article includes important works on Atlantic slavery, which deals with women and/or gender. Readers should be aware that “gender” takes on many meanings in the field of slavery.

Article.  5107 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas ; European History ; African History ; History ; Regional and National History

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