Cultures of Darkness: Night Travels in the Histories of Transgression

Peasants, religious heretics, witches, pirates, runaway slaves, prostitutes and pornographers, frequenters of taverns and fraternal society lodge rooms, revolutionaries, blues and jazz musicians, beats, and contemporary youth gangs--those who defied authority, choosing to live outside the defining cultural dominions of early insurgent and, later, dominant capitalism are what Bryan D. Palmer calls people of the night. These lives of opposition, or otherness, were seen by the powerful as deviant, rejecting authority, and consequently threatening to the established order. Constructing a rich historical tapestry of example and experience spanning eight centuries, Palmer details lives of exclusion and challenge, as the night travels of the transgressors clash repeatedly with the powerful conventions of their times. Nights of liberation and exhilarating desire--sexual and social--are at the heart of this study. But so too are the dangers of darkness, as marginality is coerced into corners of pressured confinement, or the night is used as a cover for brutalizing terror, as was the case in Nazi Germany or the lynching of African Americans. Making extensive use of the interdisciplinary literature of marginality found in scholarly work in history, sociology, cultural studies, literature, anthropology, and politics, Palmer takes an unflinching look at the rise and transformation of capitalism as it was lived by the dispossessed and those stamped with the mark of otherness.