12 Years a Slave and Crossing the River: Postcolonial Critique

1155 Words Dec 11th, 2013 5 Pages
In the words of Kurt Vonnegut, “all this happened, more or less.” Despite the fact that time-travel and World War II (aka Slaughterhouse Five) have absolutely no relevance here, the quote still stands as a remembrance of sorts. Slavery in the colonial period happened more than less, actually. From the 16th to 19th centuries, the British Empire orchestrated the greatest institution of oppression through the Atlantic slave trade, subsequently producing unconscious bigotry and racialized fantasies. As a postcolonial United States absconded from the political, cultural and economic ways of Great Britain, imperialism remained as a consequence of the human colonialism of slavery. Steve McQueen’s adaptation of 12 Years a Slave depicts the legacy …show more content…
Thus, discrimination and racism towards black slaves in the United States and diasporic individuals (as a result of colonialism) become synonymous through the theory of neocolonialism. Under these circumstances, 12 Years a Slave and Caryl Phillips’ Crossing the River come to be one in the same through their want to reclaim and recover ethnic identity, and decolonize those internalized mindsets. In both McQueen’s adaptation and Phillips’ novel, slaves are depicted as capital incarnate, or living debts and impersonal obligations that were foisted upon them by their status as commercial objects. One of the major plantation and slave owners in the film, Edwin Epps (played by Michael Fassbender), can be seen as an extension of James Hamilton in “Crossing the River”. Each man in his “God-fearing” mentality personify the notion of commercial detachment, which essentially allows him to participate in the slave trade while maintaining a Christian belief. Thus, slavery became justified solely through the idea that it was a means for capital enterprise. Throughout 12 Years a Slave, the diversity of characters is conveyed through Solomon’s rather detached outlook, which inevitably fails him in his attempts to stereotypically classify slave proprietors as rogues, and the slaves uniformly as heroes. While this is actually a

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