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The Man Who Stole Himself


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About the Author

Gisli Palsson is professor of anthropology at the University of Iceland. He is the author, editor, or coeditor of many books.


"A welcome addition to the use of biography in anthropology and for its contribution to our understanding of slavery."-- "Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute"
"If you're a history buff, this incredible story of an escaped slave will enthrall you. . . . The Man Who Stole Himself is an amazing story about how one lucky man used his wit and education to escape slavery, but it's also about how people in small Icelandic communities understood race at a time when none of them had met anyone of African ancestry before. It's simply riveting."-- "Ars Technica"
"There can be no doubt that Palsson has with this fine monograph rendered a great service."-- "American Ethnologist"
"The Man Who Stole Himself is absorbing and captivating. Palsson engagingly assembles and thoughtfully narrates the biography of Hans Jonathan, who was born into slavery on St. Croix, came of age enslaved in Denmark, and claimed his freedom in Iceland. Palsson offers up a meditation on slavery and race--past and present--thoughtfully raising complex issues involving race, memory, and family. Palsson does not offer easy answers either; rather, he pushes readers to ponder through these issues on their own. A beautifully written and accessible book."-- "Terri L. Snyder, author of The Power to Die: Slavery and Suicide in British North America"
"More than simply a captivating biography, Palsson's book explores the many worlds that Jonathan navigated. . . . The Man Who Stole Himself is a welcome addition to the literature on race and slavery in the Atlantic World. Accessible and engaging, this book will appeal to historians, anthropologists, and graduate students working in the histories of race, slavery, colonialism, imperialism, and their legacies in the modern world."-- "The American Historical Review"
"With wondrous sleuthing, Palsson has recreated the life of a runaway slave, whose story lay hidden for centuries in the memories of an Icelandic family. Hans Jonathan, born to a slave mother in St. Croix and transported to Copenhagen as a boy, escaped in secrecy to Iceland. There he lived as tradesman, farmer, and married man. Palsson paints vividly the multiple worlds that Hans Jonathan saw--from vindictive slave-owners to folks willing to challenge the doctrines of race. A gripping read, The Man Who Stole Himself shows the powerful resonance that slavery and freedom have for our own time."-- "Natalie Zemon Davis, author of The Return of Martin Guerre"

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