Alright, this idea is still relatively convoluted in my head, so bear with me.
One of the main themes that we have been asked to think about in the context of the slave narratives we have read is the idea of the slave as a comestible. We have looked at this, in Mary Prince, in the context of the body being physically consumed, from her work as a wet nurse to the mortality of the slave population. This is part of what I want to look at, but I want to step back and look also at the salve’s being in a more abstract way, in order to include mental and physical anguish as ways in which slaves are ‘used up’ or ‘consumed’.
I then want to tie this in to the discussions we have had about waste. We have also looked at waste in a very physical/concrete way (looking at the actual excretory waste of the body), but something that we haven’t really talked about is waste in its other sense. Waste also refers to the misuse/careless expenditure of resources.
I would like to draw a connection between this form of waste and the idea of the human being as a comestible or resource. The brutal and cruel treatment of slaves in both Equiano and Mary Prince can be seen as a kind of consumer waste. The loss of life in the middle passage described in Equiano is a very direct example of bodily waste of the slave “product”. But in Mary Prince, there is a different kind of wastefulness (in addition to just the loss of life). The Wood family’s harsh treatment of her can be seen as wasteful, in that they were needlessly and impractically horrible in their usage of Mary.
I feel that this wasteful use of their slaves demonstrates an attitude of excess that is closely tied to consumerism (in all its forms). It seems, in the text, that the Wood’s abuse of Mary is honestly for the sake of abuse. It doesn’t serve the purpose of getting more or better work out of her, or achieving a higher capital gain from their purchase of her. If this were the case they would have agreed to let her purchase her freedom, or they would not have beaten her until she was incapable of carrying out her tasks. Their conduct in London, after Mary has left their family, in particular, shows an attitude of desire to do harm without any possible benefit to any party other than the gratification of a vindictive malice. Looked at in the context of the slave as a comestible resource for consumers, this type of consumerism can be seen as the rapacious greed of an ideology of excess: to consume for the sake of consuming instead of to fulfill some sort of need or purpose.
I feel like this is a relatively easy connection to draw. However, I am interested in the way that this might relate back to our discussions of Taste and Aesthetics as they relate to comestibles, as the lack of bodily or practical function (with a bit of a stretch this could be seen as excess or wastefulness) as being the necessary element in differentiating between taste and Taste.
I’m not sure what we could do with that, or if it even makes sense, but it was just a thought I had.