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Unsettled StatesNineteenth-Century American Literary Studies$
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Dana Luciano and Ivy Wilson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9781479857722

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479857722.001.0001

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Unsettled Life

Unsettled Life

Early Liberia’s Epistolary Equivocations

(p.119) 5 Unsettled Life
Unsettled States

David Kazanjian

NYU Press

This chapter reveals the fault lines of black diaspora theory by examining how black settlers from the United States were suspended in a social subjectivity that resisted being consolidated as specifically American or Liberian. Drawing on Phyllis Wheatley and Ouladah Equiano alongside the nineteenth-century archive of letters authored by Liberia's earliest black American settlers, the chapter identifies resonances of two conventional positions on settlement. First is the allure of diaspora's racial romanticism, and the other is the imperialistic impulses of an American nationalism. The chapter's consideration of the letters' language, however, settles for neither of the two. Instead, it exposes the conditionality and “equivocal agency” of Liberian settler-subjects as they speculated on the meanings and improvised on the practices of freedom.

Keywords:   black diaspora theory, Liberia, Phyllis Wheatley, Ouladah Equiano, racial romanticism, American nationalism, Liberia settlers, settlement

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