The Curse of Canaan; or, A Fantasy of Origins in Nineteenth-Century America

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Book Chapter

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curse of Ham, curse of Canaan, nineteenth-century America, religious fantasy, interracial sex, racial purity, racial inequality, Africans, racial difference

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This chapter turns to the ways in which nineteenth-century Americans retold the biblical story of the “curse of Ham” as a fantasy to promote the notion of racial purity, which contradicted the social reality of interracial reproductive sex that prevailed throughout slavery. It contends that nineteenth-century Americans clung to the so-called curse of Ham or curse of Canaan as a religious fantasy that attempted to negate interracial sex as foundational to the origins of race and instead propagated a fantasy about racial purity. This fantasy was the field in which identities were forged, subjugations articulated, and desire structured. And by making the familial form universal and perpetuated by the (sovereign and nonsovereign) sexual transmission of race, it held out a singular humanity cut by racial inequality.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

The Curse of Canaan; or, A Fantasy of Origins in Nineteenth-Century America, in J. Brier, J. Downs & J. L. Morgan (Eds.), Connexions: Histories of Race and Sex in North America, University of Illinois Press