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Slavery and the Culture of Taste Hardcover – August 21, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


Co-Winner of the 2011 James Russell Lowell Prize, Modern Language Association

Co-winner of the 2012 Melville J. Herskovits Award, African Studies Association

Winner of the 14th Annual (2012) Susanne M. Glasscock Humanities Book Prize for Interdisciplinary Scholarship, Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities Research at Texas A&M University

One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2012

"In this at times disturbing and often provocative book, Gikandi seeks to bring together two seemingly disparate areas of experience, African slavery and European high culture. . . . This impressive, and in places startling, book is sure to redirect the tide of contemporary 18th-century studies; it exemplifies critical inquiry into the 'global 18th century' at its best."--Choice

"[T]his is an absorbing and otherwise well-executed study. It is nuanced, erudite and wide-ranging, shedding much valuable new light on the vexed relationships between eighteenth-century aesthetic culture and the outrageous history that shadows it."--Carl Plasa, Review of English Studies

"Among the many strengths of this study is that it will engage scholars and students from a variety of disciplines, including the Atlantic world, British history and/or literature, colonial history both North American and Caribbean--and the slave trade. Gikandi is an engaging author, but he assumes some prior knowledge of the materials that he so intricately weaves into his remarkably detailed narrative."--Dorothy Potter, Sixteenth Century Journal

"Interdisciplinary in approach, Slavery and the Culture of Taste is a virtuoso performance that mobilizes a vast amount of secondary literature and deploys a dazzling array of theory."--Ryan Whyte, Journal of Curatorial Studies

"Slavery and the Culture of Taste is an important book that should be widely read by students of slavery and the modern world."--Ed Rugemer, Literature & History

From the Back Cover

"It is difficult to think of a single work that more clearly and carefully reveals the inextricable intertwining of the habits and social practices of the British elite in the drawing rooms of London with the harsh brutalities of Britain's central involvement in the creation and maintenance of the slave trade in the West Indies and West Africa. This book is full of stunning insights and is a pleasure to read. It is an original contribution to the study of the Enlightenment."--Henry Louis Gates, Jr., author of Tradition and the Black Atlantic and The Trials of Phillis Wheatley

"This ambitious, intelligent, and far-reaching book argues that selfhood and the culture of taste were constituted by slavery. It is, as far as I know, the first in-depth look at slave performance in relation to the British culture of taste and refinement, and will, without a doubt, transform our understanding of the eighteenth century."--Saidiya Hartman, author of Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route

"This book cogently argues for the complexities between the cultures of politeness in eighteenth-century English culture and the practices of slave capitalism. Connecting images of slavery with archival sources from the eighteenth century as well as with the writings of modern and contemporary theorists and philosophers, Gikandi's work will interest scholars of eighteenth-century studies, the Black Atlantic, British cultural and literary history, and colonial/postcolonial studies, as well as historians of slavery and the slave trade."--Philip Gould, Brown University

"This book explores with great insight the relations between taste--a social, aesthetic, and regulatory standard, crafted by traditional elites--and the practices of violence and exploitation that characterized slavery in the eighteenth century. Leading the reader through terrains of connection and difference that stretch across oceans and periods, this book is a pleasure to read and ponder."--Kathleen Wilson, State University of New York, Stony Brook

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (August 21, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691140669
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691140667
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,720,980 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Dilip Menon on November 2, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Scholarly and elegant account of aesthetics through an account of slavery and its neglected centrality to the very idea of modernity and civilisation.
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By Tanner on February 4, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Every person interested in a true vision of the outcome and ramifications of slavery in the Americas that we still live with in our culture should read this amazing book. The insidious nature of the slave economy has lessons for every community, every scholar and artist.
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