The State of Things: Olaudah Equiano and the Volatile Politics of Heterocosmic Desire

The essay explores the notion of masochist nationalism through a reading of a brief passage in Equiano's Interesting Narrative in which Equiano engages with a young Musquito man named George. Equiano's attempt to convert George is tied to a mutual reading of Fox's Book of Martyrs which posits a community of aggrieved souls who will enact vengeance on the slave holders and on those who sanction slavery. The argument pays particular attention to how Equiano figures George in a complex economy of humiliation and revenge. This revenge becomes highly sexualized when Equiano shifts his allusions from Fox's Book of Martyrs to The Book of Judges. From this point onward Equiano's text is thoroughly involved in a series of rape fantasies which have important nationalist implications. Ultimately, the essay suggests that Equiano's most radical gesture in this scene is to stage politics from the ground of the object, but it also demonstrates how such a politics is susceptible to unforeseen consequences.