The Afterlife of Reproductive Slavery

Biocapitalism and Black Feminism’s Philosophy of History

Book Pages: 296 Illustrations: 4 illustrations Published: March 2019

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, American Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies

In The Afterlife of Reproductive Slavery Alys Eve Weinbaum investigates the continuing resonances of Atlantic slavery in the cultures and politics of human reproduction that characterize contemporary biocapitalism. As a form of racial capitalism that relies on the commodification of the human reproductive body, biocapitalism is dependent upon what Weinbaum calls the slave episteme—the racial logic that drove four centuries of slave breeding in the Americas and Caribbean. Weinbaum outlines how the slave episteme shapes the practice of reproduction today, especially through use of biotechnology and surrogacy. Engaging with a broad set of texts, from Toni Morrison's Beloved and Octavia Butler's dystopian speculative fiction to black Marxism, histories of slavery, and legal cases involving surrogacy, Weinbaum shows how black feminist contributions from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s constitute a powerful philosophy of history—one that provides the means through which to understand how reproductive slavery haunts the present.


"The Afterlife of Reproductive Slavery provides several insights to scholars invested in teasing out how colonial logics continue to shape reproductive technologies and biocapitalism. . . . Weinbaum brings to light how racialization and dehumanization motivate biocapitalism, even in the absence of black women. Ultimately, this argument prompts consideration of how neoliberalism entraps us all, weakening our resolve to resist the persistence of the slave episteme into present day." — Melissa Brown, Ethnic and Racial Studies

“In this innovative and ambitious book Alys Eve Weinbaum expands our understanding of the black radical tradition while pushing it in a distinctly feminist direction. The Afterlife of Reproductive Slavery is an important work that will have major reverberations in black studies, literary studies, feminist theory, and postcolonial studies.” — Saidiya Hartman, author of Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval

“In this sophisticated and erudite study Alys Eve Weinbaum demands her readers engage with the history of slavery, new reproductive technologies, dystopian literatures, and black feminist theory in ways that render them all both as unsettling and as generative food for thought. This work's political urgency will call out to a wide audience of scholars and students.” — Jennifer L. Morgan, author of Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Alys Eve Weinbaum is Professor of English at the University of Washington, author of Wayward Reproductions: Genealogies of Race and Nation in Transatlantic Modern Thought, and coeditor of The Modern Girl Around the World: Consumption, Modernity, and Globalization, both also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Introduction. Human Reproduction and the Slave Episteme  1
1. The Surrogacy/Slavery Nexus  29
2. Black Feminism as a Philosophy of History  61
3. Violent Insurgency, or "Power to the Ice Pick"  88
4. The Problem of Reproductive Freedom in Neoliberalism  111
5. A Slave Narrative for Postracial Times  147
Epilogue. The End of Men and the Black Womb of the World  177
Notes  187
Bibliography  243
Index  275
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Honorable Mention, 2019 Gloria E. Anzaldúa Prize, presented by the National Women's Studies Association

Winner, 2019 Sarah A. Whaley Prize, presented by the National Women's Studies Association

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0284-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0176-8
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