Wounds of Returning

Race, Memory, and Property on the Postslavery Plantation

By Jessica Adams

240 pp., 5.5 x 8.5, 10 illus., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5801-1
    Published: May 2007
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-0653-8
    Published: September 2012
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-8050-5
    Published: September 2012

New Directions in Southern Studies

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From Storyville brothels and narratives of turn-of-the-century New Orleans to plantation tours, Bette Davis films, Elvis memorials, Willa Cather’s fiction, and the annual prison rodeo held at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, Jessica Adams considers spatial and ideological evolutions of southern plantations after slavery. In Wounds of Returning, Adams shows that the slave past returns to inhabit plantation landscapes that have been radically transformed by tourism, consumer culture, and modern modes of punishment--even those landscapes from which slavery has supposedly been banished completely.

Adams explores how the commodification of black bodies during slavery did not disappear with abolition--rather, the same principle was transformed into modern consumer capitalism. As Adams demonstrates, however, counternarratives and unexpected cultural hybrids erupt out of attempts to re-create the plantation as an uncomplicated scene of racial relationships or a signifier of national unity. Peeling back the layers of plantation landscapes, Adams reveals connections between seemingly disparate features of modern culture, suggesting that they remain haunted by the force of the unnatural equation of people as property.

About the Author

Jessica Adams is lecturer in English at the University of California, Berkeley. She is coeditor of Just Below South: Intercultural Performance in the Caribbean and the Southern United States.
For more information about Jessica Adams, visit the Author Page.


"Juxtaposing a wide variety of literary, cultural and historiographical texts, [Adams] effectively performs a methodological 'impurity' that echoes her critical preoccupation with the slipperiness of culturally or legally sanctioned categories."--Southern Quarterly

"A lively and impressive combination of cultural studies, ethnography, performance studies, and literary criticism. . . . Powerfully demonstrates the conjunction of racial identity and property ownership."--Law and History Review

"Enlightening. . . . Both the professional and the general reader can learn from this monograph."--Louisiana History

“Adams creatively engages with diverse sources. . . . Significantly contributes to the growing body of literature on the entangled paths of slavery, public history, and historical memory.”--Journal of African American History

“Richly combining literary analysis, historical research, and first-person ethnography, Wounds of Returning successfully traces how the historic conversion of human beings into capital did not die out with slavery but continued anew in the workings of consumer capitalism. Adams makes her argument concisely and effectively, with evocative interpretations and insightful revelations.”--Russ Castronovo, University of Wisconsin-Madison