Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Pan-African Studies

Degree Program

Pan-African Studies, PhD

Committee Chair

Jones, Ricky

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Washington, Ahmad

Committee Member

Washington, Ahmad

Committee Member

McCormick, Brandon

Committee Member

Swinehart, Karl

Author's Keywords

Fungibility; Dred Scott; performative speech acts; antiblackness; race; discourse


This dissertation is a discursive analysis of the decision in the Dred Scott v Sandford, 1857 case written by Chief Justice Roger Taney. It begins with an overview of the literature on performative speech acts, focusing on the aspects of performatives that relate to Louis Miron and Jonathan Xavier Inda’s thesis that race is a performative speech act. Breaking from their use of race as the analytic, this analysis is situated within a black/nonblack paradigm. This provides a framework that focuses on the unique ways in which the discourse of the text enacts, accumulates and renders blackness fungible. The latter part of the dissertation argues that the Dred Scott decision does the work of extending colonial discourses into the future by flattening blackness and embedding the technologies of antiblackness within what I call double-speak. The discourse analysis was performed in three steps. The first was to identify the use of identity markers and their corresponding descriptors. These identity markers were compared/contrasted and analyzed to get a better sense of how these various identities were enacted within the text. The second identified the use of universal terms and phrases. These universal terms and phrases were then analyzed to determine the capacity for blacks to assimilate via an inclusion/exclusion framework. The third and final step was to identify the moments of antiblackness as determined by the tenets of accumulation and fungibility. In the end the majority opinion can be described as an antiblack performative speech act that named blackness, reiterated the representations of blackness, and generated the force of authority that allows for further citation of those representations of blackness. Furthermore, the analysis provided a means for exploring the role of Fanon’s racial corporeal schema as a linguistic marker that carries the logics of slavery into the future without having to use the language of slavery. Finally, utilizing antiblackness as a theoretical intervention, I was able to identify a gap in the literature on the effects of performatives. This effect I call double-speak, which happens when there is contradiction across groups as to the successfulness or unsuccessfulness of a single performative utterance.