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3 - “Young people think that old people are fools but old people know that young people are fools”

Intergenerational Conflict Among the Enslaved

from Part I - The Enslaved

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 October 2023

David Stefan Doddington
Affiliation:
Cardiff University
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Summary

Enslaved people commonly claimed they sought to protect the aged from the excesses of their abusers, and were raised to respect their elders. Most scholarship on the topic reinforces this position, with an emphasis on support based on shared oppression and as a form of collective cultural resistance. This chapter, however, considers the consequences when enslaved people appropriated, internalized, or simply shared a belief that old age equated with diminished value and declining powers in work. Respect predicated on agedness was not always meant seriously nor received positively, and the transition to elder could be taken instead as an enforced relegation from the people one had once imagined as peers. The aged party sometimes resented and even resisted the imposition of such a label and its associated narrative, with such tension reflecting broader complexities surrounding age as a chronological, functional, and relational category and identity. People seen as elderly, but who struggled with this categorization of themselves, were forced to make choices – to accept, adapt, or to resist – and this could come at no little cost.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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