b o o k rev i ews Slavery and the Culture of Taste. By Simon Gikandi. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011. Pp. 366. Cloth, $45.00.) Antebellum southern slaveholders prided themselves on being men of culture and distinction. To their critics, and to people ever since, this claim seemed to be contradicted by the brutality of the institution of slavery over which the slaveholders presided, an institution that gave them wealth and social status. How could slavery and aesthetic pleasure go together? The principal value of Simon Gikandi's stimulating, theoretically sophisticated, and ambitious study of the connections between the eighteenthcentury development of cultures of taste and the growth of British North American and West Indian slavery in the period before abolition is that he shows how the sensibility associated with the Enlightenment was intimately associated with an increasingly brutal system. Gikandi makes a compelling argument that in order to understand the discourses of modernity that transformed ideas of beauty and modified notions of the self, we have to pay attention to slavery not as an aberration but as a fundamental constituent part of the development of gentility, respectability, and the various cultures of taste. He places great importance on
The Journal of the Civil War Era – University of North Carolina Press
Published: Nov 2, 2012
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