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Bonds of CitizenshipLaw and the Labors of Emancipation$
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Hoang Gia Phan

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780814738474

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814738474.001.0001

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Bound by Law

Bound by Law

Apprenticeship and the Culture of “Free” Labor

(p.24) 1 Bound by Law
Bonds of Citizenship

Hoang Gia Phan

NYU Press

This chapter studies the figures of apprenticeship and indentured servitude in transatlantic texts, in order to delineate the ambiguous legal and cultural spaces between slavery and “freedom.” Throughout Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur's Letters from an American Farmer, Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography, Ottobah Cugoano's Thoughts and Sentiments, and Olaudah Equiano's Life of Olaudah Equiano, apprenticeship and indentured servitude is represented as an allegory of transformation—a transitional state of passage by which the subject attains the freedom of self-mastery. For instance, Crèvecoeur explicitly stages this transformational allegory as the coming-into-citizenship of “the American, this new man.” It is this cultural recognition of apprenticeship and indentured servitude as ambiguous, transitional states of labor bondage that the Constitution's erasures of race and slavery both depends upon and disavows.

Keywords:   indentured servitude, apprenticeship, Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur, Benjamin Franklin, Olaudah Equiano, Ottobah Cugoano

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