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Trading Women, Traded Women

A Historical Scrutiny of Gendered Trading

Gönül Bakay and Mihaela Mudure

For the scholarly reader it is a truism that trade, in its widest sense (exchange, interchange, deal) is the basis of human society, it is part of the human interaction which is the very texture of society. The French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss demonstrated in his seminal essay «The Elementary Structures of Kinship» that human society relies on the exchange of women by men. But women are not only the passive object of this trade among men. They also try and often succeed in trading goods, ideas, and changing their subject position by getting the upper hand in this crucial exchange. Little attention has been given to genderizing the connection between trade and the British Enlightenment and to its subsequent influence on women’s history and/or literary or visual representations of women by women or men. The contributors in this collection focus on women as physical or symbolic traded objects, as subversive women trading in spite of cultural and social stereotypes, and as women empowered in the cultural, political, and social trade.

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Trading Places: Early African American Women’s Travel Writing (Oana Cogeanu)


Oana Cogeanu

Trading Places: Early African American Women’s Travel Writing

African-Americans have had a peculiar interest in traveling overseas and they followed that interest at great lengths. Contrary to the stereotype of the slave in chains, (Gerzina 2001, p. 44) black people in the 18th and early 19th century demonstrate a relatively high mobility. Inside the United States, black travel gained impetus in the post-Civil War period with the movement of freed slaves and the exodus to Kansas and Oklahoma, as well as in the first half of the 20th century, when blacks relocated from the rural South to the urban areas in the North, Midwest and West. Beyond American boundaries, there are few places blacks left untravelled.

The intense African-American foreign mobility, as Griffin and Fish show, is often connected to the impulse for increased opportunities and the desire to find a home. (Griffin and Fish 1998, p. xiii) Thus, on the one hand, it is typical of the urge that many people had throughout history, including the settlers of America, to search for improvement and to claim new dwelling places. On the other hand, African-American travel specifically refers back to the enforced mobility of the Middle Passage and carries the personal or folk memory of that enslaving journey. As such, subsequent African-American wilful mobility retraces physically and/or mentally the itinerary of the Middle Passage and is characterised by a peculiar search for a lost home. Moreover, the extensive travel of black people...

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