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Runaway GenresThe Global Afterlives of Slavery$
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Yogita Goyal

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781479829590

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479829590.001.0001

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Sentimental Globalism

Sentimental Globalism

(p.35) 1 Sentimental Globalism
Runaway Genres

Yogita Goyal

NYU Press

This chapter argues that neo-abolitionism uses sentimentalism to dehistoricize contemporary atrocities, viewing them as revivals of a superseded Atlantic past. Modern slave narratives, explicitly written to abolish modern slavery across the globe (ranging across Sudan, Haiti, and Sierra Leone, promoted by various neo-abolitionist organizations), enshrine the language of sentimentalism as the most effective weapon in the human rights arsenal, defining a global relation between us and them solely as a matter of sentiment. Survivors outline an idyllic childhood, abduction and captivity, a life of servitude, until the moment of humanitarian rescue and a new life in America. Reading Francis Bok’s memoir Escape from Slavery (2003) alongside Dave Eggers’s neoliberal novel What Is the What (2006), I trace how the formal exchanges among subject, author, and amanuensis generate a seemingly new way for Americans to imagine themselves as global citizens, constituting themselves as global via their humanitarian empathy for the African victim of atrocity.

Keywords:   sentimentalism, abolition, affect, modern slavery, human trafficking, neoliberal, Dave Eggers, Francis Bok

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