This response to commentaries by Trevor Burnard, Colin Dayan, and Verene Shepherd on The Reaper's Garden recalls some of the inspirations that motivated research for the book, the assumptions that framed its analysis, and the aims of its storytelling. The book begins where most demographic histories of slavery have left off, exploring how social, cultural, and political life articulated with the brutal facts of morbidity and mortality. It seeks to offer a dynamic understanding of how the idioms that related the living to the dead mediated the way people in Jamaican slave society strove to achieve particular ends. For those contending with the conditions of Atlantic slavery, enacting assumptions about the role of the dead in the fortunes of the living required daily struggle over the means of existence and the exercise of will, and these beliefs and behaviors associated with death became a driving force in slavery's political history.
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Vincent Brown; History Attends to the Dead. Small Axe 1 March 2010; 14 (1 (31)): 219–227. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/07990537-2009-054
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