Slavery and Servitude in Seventeenth-Century Feminism: Arcangela Tarabotti and Gabrielle Suchon

In Karen Detlefsen & Lisa Shapiro (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Women and Early Modern European Philosophy. Routledge. pp. 297-310 (2023)
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This essay examines how two seventeenth-century feminists use the language of slavery and servitude to describe and protest the domination of women and girls. From their experiences of being forcibly confined to convents at a young age, Arcangela Tarabotti and Gabrielle Suchon demonstrate how the deprivation of knowledge, the restriction and destruction of social and kinship relations, and the impediments to the exercise their free wills impose upon them forms of slavery. The language of “slavery” and “servitude” plays a distinctive role in their writing, the examination of which locates them in wider traditions of moral and political thought, helps us to understand their complaints, and allows us to appreciate their innovative, feminist adaptations of these discourses. The essay concludes with some reflections on how to think about the use of the idiom of slavery applied to the oppression of white Europeans, which is so common in the early modern period, contemporaneous with the rise of the transatlantic slave trade.

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Hasana Sharp
McGill University


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