Death and the American South by Craig Thompson Friend, Lorri Glover

By Craig Thompson Friend, Lorri Glover

This wealthy choice of unique essays illuminates the reasons and results of the South's defining studies with demise. utilizing quite a lot of views, whereas targeting discrete episodes within the region's earlier, the authors discover themes from the 17th century to the current, from the loss of life traps that emerged in the course of colonization to the bloody backlash opposed to emancipation and civil rights to fresh canny efforts to commemorate - and capitalize on - the region's lethal prior. a few authors catch their matters within the so much intimate of moments: killing and death, grieving and remembering, and believing and despairing. Others discover the intentional efforts of Southerners to publicly commemorate their losses via loss of life rituals and memorialization campaigns. jointly, those poignantly informed Southern tales demonstrate profound truths concerning the previous of a quarter marked through loss of life and not able, maybe unwilling, to flee the ghosts of its background.

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Unlike crows, however, the heads would never fly away. 34 Corpses – in particular their heads – symbolized the culture of death that underlay the emergence of the South, both in its colonial manifestations and as it became part of the new United States. In the era of European colonization, they became weapons in the struggle for dominance: Native Americans used scalps to carve out their own hegemony and ward off European colonists; Europeans and European Americans employed beheadings to claim the land in response to native scalpings and in the name of colonization and plantations; and when they did behead others, African Americans reacted to the plantation system that sustained European colonization.

27 In the early South, this overt protection of patriarchy was reinforced by the dual system of justice that attended to intercultural conflict: the empire had its laws, and the plantation had its justice. The slow starvation of a slave hanging in a cage was nowhere allowed by law, but the planter aristocracy expected dominance over their slaves and exerted extralegal authority to enforce it. Punishment, therefore, did not always fit the crime, at least according to English statutes. 28 Decapitation was almost a rule for treasonous slaves who threatened the sociopolitical order of England’s colonies.

This opinion of savage warfare permeated European thought for centuries, and the belief persisted that it could only be tempered by “civilization,” as evidenced in British naturalist John Lawson’s parenthetical comment about Florida Indians in 1709: “when they take any Prisoners, (if the English be not near to prevent it) [they] sculp them, that is, to take their Hair and 10 Philippe Ariès, Western Attitudes toward Death: From the Middle Ages to the Present, trans. Patricia M. Ranum (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974), 37, 47; idem, The Hour of Our Death, trans.

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