Consuming Sugar: Kara Walker’s Marvelous Sugar Baby

Reflection of A Subtlety

Reflection of A Subtlety

Sugar has been one of the world’s most desired commodities since the 19th century, when it went from being a luxury item to a product of mass consumption. The demand for sugar fueled the trade in human beings to cultivate it. Abolitionists, especially English protofeminists, deployed the term “blood sugar” to try to curb the appetites of sugar consumers by making them conscious of the slave labor that produced it. By equating the consumption of sugar to “eating the other”—to borrow a phrase from bell hooks—anti-sugar campaigners reduced sugar eaters to cannibals who relied on flesh to sustain their cravings. These (brown) sugar cravings resonate in yet another way when we recall the sexual exploitation of black enslaved women by white masters of sugar plantations.

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