Slavery's Ephemera


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.

Originally posted on Critical Spatial Practice by Rhizome