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Hope Smith

Hope SmithSixth-year doctoral student (in 2016-2017), Department of Anthropology
Project:  The Embodiment of Identity: an Archaeological Perspective on Race and Self-Representation in 18th -century Virginia

Institutionalized slavery helped to create the concept of race in the American mind and forced people into new social categories based on superficial bodily characteristics.  These new social categories resulted in the formation of identities that were continuously negotiated, reinforced or challenged through daily bodily practices of self-presentation that included ways of dress, adornment and physical action.  Because slavery was defined by the body, an embodiment approach to plantation archaeology can shed new light on the construction of racial identities.  This interdisciplinary project combines an archaeological analysis of personal adornment artifacts with a close reading of mass-produced satirical illustrations, runaway slave advertisements and shopkeepers' records.  Through these textual, visual and material sources this project will trace the daily practices of presentation of self in 18th-century rural Virginia, revealing how plantation owners and the enslaved negotiated multiple identities within the confines of this system.


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