The Tar Baby: A Global History

The Tar Baby offers a fresh analysis of a deceptively simple story about a wolf, a rabbit, and a doll made of tar and turpentine. Examining the story's variation and reception, Bryan Wagner argues that the tar baby is best understood not merely as a folktale but as a collective work in political philosophy. Circulating at the same time and in the same places as new ideas about property and politics developed in colonial law and political economy, the story embodies an understanding of the interlocking processes by which custom was criminalized, slaves were captured, and labor was bought and sold.

 Bryan Wagner
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