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Spiritual Terror and Sacred Authority in Jamaican Slave Society

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Abstract:

Through spectacular punishments committed upon the corpses of the enslaved, the Jamaican plantocracy tried to harness the affective power of the dead and awe of the afterlife to its material authority. Though the intent was to terrorize the spiritual imagination, the routinization of terrifying spectacles only aided in the creation of novel understandings of the relationship between dead bodies, haunting spirits, and political authority, understandings that could also enhance the authority of those enslaved men and women who were willing to rise up and strike their masters. Both the enslaved and their overlords tried to elevate their authority by connecting it to the transcendent. In other words, they attached worldly concerns to sacred power.

Keywords: Jamaica; authority; obeah; slavery; state execution; terror

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/714005263

Publication date: April 1, 2003

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