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History and Heritage Research Seminar

‘Furnisht with Such Members as Are After a Sort Burthensome unto Them’: White Perceptions of Black Male Bodies and the Gendered Origins of Racism, 1450-1730.


Please note this seminar replaces the 'The Canterbury Roll: new directions in Digital Humanities Seminar' which is rescheduled for 16 January 2019.  Further details will follow soon.

  • From: Wednesday 12 December 2018, 1 pm
  • To: Wednesday 12 December 2018, 2.30 pm
  • Location: Room ABK 107, Ada Byron King Building, Nottingham Trent University, Clifton Lane, Nottingham, NG11 8NS
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Event details


This paper explores how European travellers to Africa perceived African masculinity, the male body and sexuality during the period 1450-1730. Male travellers to West Africa regularly commented on the physique of African men, particularly their genitalia, as well as their sexuality, gender roles, and beauty. When Europeans commented on practices such as African polygamy, sodomy, circumcision, and castration, they constructed important markers of difference that departed from the discourse of European ‘civilised’ masculinity. The paper argues that these observations helped Europeans to construct early notions of racial difference at a time when skin colour was not the most important marker of difference classifying people. These perceptions of gender not only shaped early constructions of race, they subsequently helped justify the enslavement of Africans and contributed to the construction of stereotypes such as the hypersexual African American male rapist discourse in the United States.


Dr Lussana is a lecturer in American history. His research focuses on issues of race, gender, and emotion in 19th-century America, and in particular on the history of African American slavery. His first monograph, My Brother Slaves: Friendship, Masculinity and Resistance (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2016), explores the homosocial world of enslaved men in the antebellum southern United States. It examines how pursuits such as drinking, gambling, wrestling, and hunting brought enslaved men together in an all-male subculture through which they constructed their own independent notions of masculinity, friendship, and resistance.

Location details


Room ABK 107
Ada Byron King Building
Nottingham Trent University
Clifton Lane, Nottingham
NG11 8NS


Parking for external visitors is available on Clifton Campus. Please arrive via the main entrance where you will be directed by the gate staff.

Past event

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