chapter  2
16 Pages

The Mesh

Democracy and Captivity
ByJoy James

Historically, legal discourses and institutions have manufactured particular races as criminals and slaves. Laws maintained the plantation and reservation as penal camps. Democracy rooted in captivity and social parasitism meant that the civic body fed itself through the state's legal apparatus. (Neo)slave narratives emerge from the combative discourse of the captive "slave" as well as the "master" state. (Neo)slave narratives focus on the punitive incarceration and containment of designated peoples in the United States. Such narratives include those of the government, those of the abolitionist and prisoner-rights advocate, and those imprisoned and non-imprisoned blacks who Wilderson calls the "prison slave" and the "prison slave-in-waiting." (Neo)slave narratives have historically proven to be financially as well as politically profitable, for some. (Neo)slave narratives can provide illusory landscapes. In conventional (neo)slave narratives, the state, despite its abusive excesses, provides the possibility of emancipation and redemption.