The purpose of this research is to explore how the oscillation between violence and benevolence by the patriarchal master marks the dual status of the slave as the subject-object. This duplicity exists not only in the identity of the slave but also in the identity of Cuban society in the Cuban abolitionist narrative of the 19th century. My research focuses on the abolitionist work La Autobiografía de un Esclavo (1835) by Juan Francisco Manzano. Expanding the post-colonial approach of academics such as Claudette Williams and Lorna Williams, first I analyze the limits of property rights over the slave imposed by the Catholic church and the law in connection with the fluctuations between violent acts and benevolent acts done by the master. Then I study the impact of these constant violations of law in the figure of the protagonist. My research shows that, although the owner is the executor of acts of cruelty, both the Church and the law protected/sanctioned this punitive prerogative of the master. While it is true that both institutions controlled the violence by regulating the master/slave relationship, neither of them questioned or intervened effectively. Moreover, I suggest that the demonstrations of benevolence were a pretense that covered a more perverse reality; there is no law, no church, no mercy in favor of the slave. It also shows how the oscillation between benevolence and violence marks the identity of the slave. The good treatment obscured but did not erase the condition of the slave as an object. The slave acting in this capacity as a thing was obligated not only to serve but to suffer the capricious wrath of the master’s changing mood.
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"Between Subject and Object: The Identity of a Slave in Juan Francisco Manzano’s Autobiography,"
Journal of Global Initiatives: Policy, Pedagogy, Perspective: Vol. 15:
1, Article 3.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.kennesaw.edu/jgi/vol15/iss1/3