Auslander on Slavery and the University

Abstract:  Diverse college and university campuses with origins before Emancipation embody a potent paradox. Architecturally and spatially, they present tangible models of idealized utopian spaces, earthly apparitions of the promise of Heaven. Yet these utopian imagined communities rest, at times uneasily, upon under-acknowledged histories of violent coercion, in the form of slavery and slave trades. This essay explores slippages and fissures in the landscape of memory on the university campus and its environs, with particular attention to the town of Oxford, Georgia, the birthplace of Emory University. Memorial spaces associated with institutions of higher learning are sites of potent ideological contestation. At one level, college-related cemeteries may present seemingly coherent narratives of regularized order within an established racial hierarchy. Yet such cemeteries and related memorial practices may also trigger critical modes of consciousness, catalyzing poignant challenges to the established order of things.

Read the rest at Southern Spaces.

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