Alexis Broderick Neumann

Ph.D. Student

B.F.A.,  Washington University in St. Louis


Stephanie McCurry
Roger Chartier
Steven Hahn



My dissertation argues that, though incest and slavery would seem to make strange bedfellows, the ‘peculiar institution’ was in essence built around and sustained by interrelated incestuous dynamics: the perversion of domesticity that organized the plantation household,  the trade in mixed-race bodies which scattered blood relatives and made masters rich, and the emerging kinship structure in which paternalism was amplified and paternity legally obfuscated. If enslaved women practically and legally could not refuse consent from a class of men who gave them their last names, who sought shelter under the guise of paternalism and the metaphor of the plantation family, then what should we call that?   

The movements of the interstate slave trade disrupted or destroyed the genealogical ties which where necessary to enforce the incest taboo, or even to ascertain whether incest was being committed or not. These aspects of the private and public spaces of the plantation world demand a reformulation of the question, what is incest, and furthermore, what is slavery?  My dissertation explores these questions across four domains of power: law, literature, kinship, and commerce.

Research Interests: 

Nineteenth-century U.S., Slavery and Emancipation, Cultural History and Theory, Women and Gender