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Slavery, Kinship and Community in the Southwest Borderlands - Book Report/Review Example

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Slavery, Kinship and Community in the Southwest Borderlands

Brooks’ work is a regional history focusing on three dominant border areas: “the buffalo plains, the canyons and mesas west of the Rio Grande and the mountain ranges that linked them” (Brooks 164). This geographic distinction gives the book a readily distinguishable organization, which is fortunate given that its subject matter ranges over such a wide swath of otherwise undistinguished territory. Having thus organized his study, Brooks refers repeatedly to his aim in shedding light on a relatively obscure, though interesting, facet of American history. “This book addresses several areas of contemporary debate in native American, Spanish Borderland, Name 2 and North American history” (Ibid 566). Brooks goes on to explain that the book’s treatment of the accumulation of human chattel and wealth among the region’s patriarchal societies is, ultimately, intended to be a factual, un-romanticized history of the relations between native and non-native Americans. Brooks succeeds in this endeavor. He is also successful in having produced a readable, relatable history. The book deals with a complex web of social and cultural relations among different ethnicities (and different Indian tribes), but still manages to engage the reader on a “story” level. Brooks utilizes but does not overwhelm the reader with statistics. Nevertheless, the story he tells is ambitious enough to appear bewildering at first. And it is at first difficult for a reader indoctrinated in the institution of ante-Bellum Southern slavery to easily grasp the fact that slavery in the Southwest border country was not as clearly distinguishable as that of the plantation South. Perhaps the book’s greatest achievement is how well it illustrates that the less “dichotomized” version of slavery it describes was the norm in America, rather than the exception. II. Slavery in the borderlands fulfilled a number of functions for a cross-section of Southwestern cultures. For native populations, such as the Pawnees, it provided replacements for tribal members killed in battle. The exchange of hostages meant material gain or could be leveraged in peace negotiations. Female slaves often became wives or concubines, enabling the tribe’s population to be thereby replenished. In general, the incorporation of slaves into kin groups had a profound effect on societies in the Southwest. Of course, the fact that enforced captivity often meant a lifetime of servitude cannot be overlooked. Despite its practical differences from slavery in the South, slavery in the Southwest was as entrenched and Name 3 institutionalized and left its own legacy of exploitation and violence. Slaves supplied a vital work force for reproductive labor, which was a valuable resource that Indian and New Mexicans struggled to maintain in a harsh environment. Slavery contributed to a shared understanding of status and wealth, which “involved a convergence of patriarchal notions about the socially productive value and exchangeability of women and children as well as sheep, cattle and horses” (Brooks 57). This convergence facilitated a gradual blurring of the line ...Show more


Name 1 Name Class Instructor Date Slavery and Social Reality in the Border Southwest I. James F. Brooks has offered a detailed, socio-cultural account of the saga of multi-ethnic slavery and patriarchy in the border Southwest. Captives and Cousins: Slavery, Kinship and Community in the Southwest Borderlands is at once an account of the creation of a uniquely American, pluralistic society and the evolution of a remarkably fluid and integrative slave institution…
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Slavery, Kinship and Community in the Southwest Borderlands essay example
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