Re-evaluating the Value of African American Lives: The Politics of Bodies (78801)

Session Information: Ethnicity and Identity
Session Chair: Huimin Du

Saturday, 25 May 2024 17:10
Session: Session 5
Room: Room 603
Presentation Type: Oral Presentation

All presentation times are UTC + 9 (Asia/Tokyo)

Recent events, such as the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police, have resulted in public outcry over the treatment of African Americans by law enforcement and other public institutions. While organizations like Black Lives Matter have done much to enhance public awareness of the unequal treatment of African American men and women in the United States, it may not be enough to resolve the apparent devaluation of African American lives. This research presents a case study in which the value of African American lives is examined as it relates to the commodification of African American bodies from the onset of American Slavery to the present. Several key findings can be extracted from the study: (1) Slaves possessed only their bare lives resulting in monetary valuations based solely on a slave’s biological capabilities. (2) After emancipation, African American bodies were included within the citizenry of the United States allowing for their exclusion from prominent social relationships. (3) African Americans are now disproportionately convicted and imprisoned for minor crimes resulting in a racial caste separate from mainstream society. (4) The commodification of African American bodies leads to dehumanization and derealization within African American populations. This research expands the understanding of bodily commodification of African Americans. Once visible, the chains associated with commodification are now invisible yet still restrictive, suggesting that the value of African American lives is contingent upon the perceived usefulness of their bodies.

Rheagan Humphrey, Southern Methodist University, United States

About the Presenter(s)
Ms. Rheagan Humphrey, Center Director - Sylvan Learning Center. Rheagan’s interests include running, yoga, reading, and spending time with her cat. Rheagan is currently training for her next big race and beginning work on her dissertation.

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Posted by Clive Staples Lewis

Last updated: 2023-02-23 23:45:00