In the British Empire, bastard is a derogatory term for children born outside of the covenant of marriage, ineligible to inherit either status or property. This essay begins with a scene of research into this figure, and it then turns to investigate an unexpected, puzzling term: bastard sugar, the “impure” sugar left after many boilings. Its brief role in the age of emancipation, and the crisis that emancipation posed for West Indian sugar, raise questions about the relationship between racialization, value, and legitimacy in the New World. Guided by the thought of Hortense Spillers and her interlocutors, the essay concludes that “bastard sugar” showcases the paradoxes of value in financial markets, and as such is the condition of New World thought.

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