Date of Award
Campus Access Thesis
Master of Arts (MA)
Stephen W. Silliman
Diana D. Loren
During the forming of the early republic in late colonial New England, Anglo authors and intellectuals employed the literary device of othering in their work, casting Native Americans as the antithesis of "civilized" English culture in order to assert their own modernity and foster burgeoning nationalism. In colonial literature, as in the colonial world, the body was the platform where these racial and cultural differences were pronounced with depictions of skin color and dress being central to reinforcing politically expedient notions of cultural otherness. As Native Americans in southern New England during this period were rarely depicted in the historical record, and the few representations that exist were often skewed by this colonial bias, the artifacts of dress they left behind provide an outlet to reconstruct a more accurate sketch of their visible presence in the past.
This thesis examines assemblages of dress and adornment from five Eastern Pequot households on the Lantern Hill Reservation in North Stonington, Connecticut, spanning the mid-eighteenth to early nineteenth century. With a focus on how individuals in these households expressed and performed their social identities through outward display, I offer a textured understanding of the appearance of Eastern Pequot people across households and decades. I draw on a combination of material culture studies, social theory, and critical materialism in a discussion of embodiment and the negotiation of identity in the colonial and early modern context. The material variation and spatial distribution of these artifacts across each site is examined, revealing the patterns of their use and disposal. These data are employed to determine how the distinct assemblages reflect individual consumption and affiliation as well as changes in the demography of the reservation community, restricted market connections, and overarching local and regional conditions.
This project shows that gender, occupation, trends in fashion, and economic access converged with ethnicity in the processes of identity negotiation at the five households. By selectively incorporating manufactured clothing and adornment into their daily practice while maintaining their individuality, members of the Eastern Pequot community refused the notion pushed by colonial authors that they could never be modern, while simultaneously maintaining strong connections to their heritage.
Lewis, Keely B., "Corporeal Negotiation at the Margins of the Colonial Landscape: An Examination of Late Eighteenth-Century Embodiment on the Eastern Pequot Reservation" (2014). Graduate Masters Theses. 275.