“Sinful Conexions”: Christianity, Social Surveillance, and Black Women’s Bodies in Distress
2015. "“Sinful Conexions”: Christianity, Social Surveillance, and Black Women’s Bodies in Distress", Troubling Freedom: Antigua and the Aftermath of British Emancipation, Natasha Lightfoot
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This chapter first documents the surge in Christian conversion among freedpeople amid their continued adherence to the African spiritual practice of obeah, and then explores the prevalence of nonmonogamous informal partnerships over Christian wedlock—both of which complicate any assumptions about freedpeople’s complete Christianization. Drawing on hitherto unstudied archival records of Moravian Church disciplinary proceedings against what they deemed adulterous relations, the chapter argues that emancipation as a gendered project intensified the inequities of slavery to which black women were especially subject. These proceedings reveal the regularity of surveillance and violence aimed at freedwomen’s bodies and their sexuality, as it was differently practiced by Christian missionaries and by the black men with whom they were intimate. Black women’s bodies were continually under duress. Legal abolition and the varied efforts to expand freedom afterward particularly generated little in the way of liberation for black workingwomen.
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Great Britain, Colonial Office Papers, British Public Record Office, National Archives, Kew, London, UK (Colonial Office Series 7/31–111, Papers Pertaining to Antigua, 1831–1858).
Moravian Church Archives, Eastern West Indies Province, Bethlehem, PA, United States.
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Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society Papers, School of Oriental and African Studies Library, London, UK.
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Antigua Herald & Gazette (St. John’s, Antigua)
Antigua Observer (St. John’s, Antigua)
Antigua Times (St. John’s, Antigua)
Antigua Weekly Register (St. John’s, Antigua)
The Dominican (Roseau, Dominica)
Port of Spain Gazette (Port of Spain, Trinidad)