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Slavery's Ephemera

By Rhizome

Slavery's Ephemera
By Judith Jackson Fossett
Design by Erik Loyer
From Editors' Introduction

Nearly 150 years after the height of the plantation South, the presumed �romance� of the era still seems to hold sway in the American national imaginary. Tourism at plantation sites has surged in recent years. The visitor to these locales surveys a very particular past, for tour guides typically focus on architectural spectacle and period furnishings as they sketch a specific (and usually white-washed) history of ephemeral southern grandeur. The visiting tourist is powerfully positioned within a mise-en-scene of imagined hospitality, an immersive experience underwritten both by the mansions� scale and lush settings and by the simultaneous erasure of virtually all traces of slavery. The visitor is swept into a stage set ripe for fantasy, creating a powerful scene for the projection of romance and structuring a sort of mobility through an imagined space of history. This fantasy unfolds in an isolated temporal and geographic zone, narrativized as separate in space and time, a lost moment reflecting a �gentler� past that mustn�t be disturbed by the ghostly presence of the slave. These tours serve to freeze the possible meanings of the South, the plantation, and the past along very narrow registers.

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