In Black Rice, Judith Carney, professor of geography at UCLA, brilliantly argues that the origin and development of rice cultivation in South Carolina is due to the knowledge and work of African slaves transplanted for this very specific purpose.

The methodological and theoretical strengths of Carney’s book lie in the multidisciplinary approach that she has constructed by relying on different fields such as botany, agriculture, geography, history, and anthropology. In doing so she demonstrates convincingly that the transfer of rice cultivation to South Carolina was not merely the transfer of a plant but the wholesale importation of an entire African cultural system encompassing agricultural and technological knowledge, food habits, a gender division of labor, ethnic skills, and time-work organization. Her analysis gives voice and agency to the slave population still too often described as an unskilled labor force arriving from cultureless countries.

The heart of Carney’s argument lies in...

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