Cover for Hunt-Kennedy: Between Fitness and Death: Disability and Slavery in the Caribbean. Click for larger image

Between Fitness and Death

Disability and Slavery in the Caribbean

Challenging how we think about race and disability

Long before the English became involved in the African slave trade, they imagined Africans as deformed beings. The English drew on pre-existing European ideas about monstrosity and deformity to argue that Africans were a monstrous race, suspended between human and animal, and as such only fit for servitude. Joining blackness to disability transformed English ideas about defective bodies and minds. It also influenced understandings of race and ability even as it shaped the embodied reality of people enslaved in the British Caribbean.

Stefanie Hunt-Kennedy provides a three-pronged analysis of disability in the context of Atlantic slavery. First, she examines the connections of enslavement and representations of disability and the parallel development of English anti-black racism. From there, she moves from realms of representation to reality in order to illuminate the physical, emotional, and psychological impairments inflicted by slavery and endured by the enslaved. Finally, she looks at slave law as a system of enforced disablement.

Audacious and powerful, Between Fitness and Death is a groundbreaking journey into the entwined histories of racism and ableism.

"Slavery relied on the ever-present humanity of the enslaved. By suggesting a framework of disability, Hunt-Kennedy presents a conceptual shift that centers the human, while showing how the conditions of slavery undermined the abilities of Africans. Required reading for Caribbean scholars and scholars around the globe interested in slavery."--Sasha Turner, author of Contested Bodies: Pregnancy, Childrearing, and Slavery in Jamaica


Stefanie Hunt-Kennedy is an associate professor at the University of New Brunswick.

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