Proposal preview

THE ECONOMY OF ADORNMENT: CLOTHING CULTURES AND CONTACT ZONES IN THE FIRST GLOBAL AGE, 1500s-1800s

Contact zones multiplied after 1500, encounters mediated visible through dress. European travellers to all continents carefully recorded dress. Populations resident in the Americas, Asia and Africa also noted dress systems of incomers, their deficiencies as well as their benefits. From Japan to the plains of North America, dress mediated contact in what we might call the global contact zones within varying political scenarios, geographies and economies (Pratt 1991).
This panel addresses these sustained interactions as reflected in patterns of dress, within globalizing eras. The study of bodily embellishment is driving a re-assessment of global contacts and connections, the agency of various world communities and the economic consequences of choice in dress (White 2012; Riello 2013; DuPlessis 2016; Lemire 2016, 2018). Our panel will add further critical momentum to this scholarly trajectory, assessing economIES of adornment as globalizing politics and cultures shaped and reshaped clothing systems in world regions.

Organizer(s)

  • Beverly Lemire University of Alberta lemire@ualberta.ca
  • Giorgio Riello University of Warwick g.riello@warwick.ac.uk

Session members

  • Evelyn Welch, King's College London
  • Dana Leibsohn, Smith College
  • Giorgio Riello, University of Warwick
  • Molly Warsh, University of Pittsburgh
  • Miki Sugiura, Hosei University
  • Beverly Lemire, University of Alberta

Discussant(s)

Papers

Panel abstract

Contact zones multiplied after 1500, encounters mediated visible through dress. European travellers to all continents carefully recorded dress. Populations resident in the Americas, Asia and Africa also noted dress systems of incomers, their deficiencies as well as their benefits. From Japan to the plains of North America, dress mediated contact in what we might call the global contact zones within varying political scenarios, geographies and economies (Pratt 1991). This panel addresses these sustained interactions as reflected in patterns of dress, within globalizing eras. The study of bodily embellishment is driving a re-assessment of global contacts and connections, the agency of various world communities and the economic consequences of choice in dress (White 2012; Riello 2013; DuPlessis 2016; Lemire 2016, 2018). Our panel will add further critical momentum to this scholarly trajectory, assessing economIES of adornment as globalizing politics and cultures shaped and reshaped clothing systems in world regions.

1st half

Visioning Skin – Valuing Skin in the Early Modern World

Evelyn Welch, King's College London

Visioning Skin – Valuing Skin in the Early Modern World

Visioning Skin – Valuing Skin in the Early Modern World

Sumptuous Bodies: Picturing Transit and Exchange in the Colonial Americas

Dana Leibsohn, Smith College

How can paintings—especially those focused upon colonized bodies—speak to economic exchange and social mobility? The answer this paper proposes turns on a case study: a dramatic portrait of three men who traveled to Quito (today in Ecuador) in the 1590s. By the late sixteenth century, the economies of Spanish America had developed strong local and foreign ties, and the portrait “Don Francisco and His Sons” describes a cosmopolitan world of trade. Yet the men depicted in this portrait—as descendants of slaves, subjects of the Spanish crown, and leaders of their communities—challenge familiar histories of colonial mobility. Their portrait also complicates narratives about the circulation of luxurious things, both by participating in and flaunting colonial economies born of gifting, theft, and taxable trade. At issue in this paper, then, are the possibilities for producing economic history through the mimesis and materiality of colonial painting.

How can paintings—especially those focused upon colonized bodies—speak to economic exchange and social mobility? The answer this paper proposes turns on a case study: a dramatic portrait of three men who traveled to Quito (today in Ecuador) in the 1590s. By the late sixteenth century, the economies of Spanish America had developed strong local and foreign ties, and the portrait “Don Francisco and His Sons” describes a cosmopolitan world of trade. Yet the men depicted in this portrait—as descendants of slaves, subjects of the Spanish crown, and leaders of their communities—challenge familiar histories of colonial mobility. Their portrait also complicates narratives about the circulation of luxurious things, both by participating in and flaunting colonial economies born of gifting, theft, and taxable trade. At issue in this paper, then, are the possibilities for producing economic history through the mimesis and materiality of colonial painting.

A Sartorial World? Collecting and Costume Books and in Sixteenth-Century Europe

Giorgio Riello

Costume books have been less studied than travel narratives and the collecting of world exotica in the consideration of the expanding intellectual horizons of renaissance Europeans. Travel narratives, diaries and travelogues have provided a lens through which to recover the agency of all the parties involved in global contacts, encounters, and interactions. Similarly the analysis of collecting practices and the formation of cabinets of curiosities has promoted a material culture approach to European knowledge formation especially in relation to the extra-European world. This paper explores how sixteenth-century costume books position themselves in-between travel accounts (for which they retain the ethnographic ambition and human subject) and collecting (as they reflect visually on material and sartorial practices). As such, costume books are another form of Renaissance ‘world-making’: a device through which new ways in which ‘contact zones’ were materialised in the construction of what today we refer to as ‘the global’.

Costume books have been less studied than travel narratives and the collecting of world exotica in the consideration of the expanding intellectual horizons of renaissance Europeans. Travel narratives, diaries and travelogues have provided a lens through which to recover the agency of all the parties involved in global contacts, encounters, and interactions. Similarly the analysis of collecting practices and the formation of cabinets of curiosities has promoted a material culture approach to European knowledge formation especially in relation to the extra-European world. This paper explores how sixteenth-century costume books position themselves in-between travel accounts (for which they retain the ethnographic ambition and human subject) and collecting (as they reflect visually on material and sartorial practices). As such, costume books are another form of Renaissance ‘world-making’: a device through which new ways in which ‘contact zones’ were materialised in the construction of what today we refer to as ‘the global’.

2nd half

Buying, Selling and Wearing Pearls in a Baroque Body Politic

Molly Warsh

Buying, Selling, and Wearing Pearls in a Baroque Body Politic

Buying, Selling, and Wearing Pearls in a Baroque Body Politic

Slave Cloth, Slave Clothing, and Early Modern Dutch Textile Circulations in the Indian Ocean World

Miki Sugiura

“Slave Cloth” is a genre in the global circulation of textiles, drawn from Europe’s Indian Ocean and Atlantic trade. It meant striped or checked cotton or linen originally from India and Southeast Asian used in exchange for slaves in West Africa by European traders from the latter 16th century The Portuguese were joined in this “cotton apprenticeship” (Riello) by the British and other European traders to identify cotton varieties in India and its surroundings, and “make cotton a global commodity by selling on the African market in exchange for slaves.” By the late 17th century, cotton, linen, and other textiles comprised more than half of the commodities traded by both Dutch and British in West Africa. This paper examines how slave clothing was created and circulated in 18th century Cape Town. It will position representative slave cloth and investigate whether certain cloth established themselves as dedicated for making slave clothing.

“Slave Cloth” is a genre in the global circulation of textiles, drawn from Europe’s Indian Ocean and Atlantic trade. It meant striped or checked cotton or linen originally from India and Southeast Asian used in exchange for slaves in West Africa by European traders from the latter 16th century The Portuguese were joined in this “cotton apprenticeship” (Riello) by the British and other European traders to identify cotton varieties in India and its surroundings, and “make cotton a global commodity by selling on the African market in exchange for slaves.” By the late 17th century, cotton, linen, and other textiles comprised more than half of the commodities traded by both Dutch and British in West Africa. This paper examines how slave clothing was created and circulated in 18th century Cape Town. It will position representative slave cloth and investigate whether certain cloth established themselves as dedicated for making slave clothing.

Fashioning Colonial Winter, Fashioning Imperial Men: Sport & Imperial Agendas in the Anglo-World, c. 1800-1900

Beverly Lemire, University of Alberta

A single tobogganing suit ascribed to late 19th-century London opened a long-forgotten history of a new-style winter sport that spread from eastern Canada across the northlands of North American and the British Empire. The sport and its uniform repurposed Indigenous technology and enacted a new winter whiteness. This history illuminates late 19th century imperial agendas and the colonization of winter lands, in what James Belich terms “the Anglo-world.” Canada was the birthplace of this phenomenon; but this was not only a Canadian story. Rather, a Canadian sport became a globalized cultural model for broad territorial claims. The craze for tobogganing redefined winter. Blanket coats emerged as a fashionable imperial livery wherever dominance over snow-covered lands was the goal – plus dominance over Indigenous peoples. The tobogganing suit marked this contested passage, serving colonization and imperial aims.

A single tobogganing suit ascribed to late 19th-century London opened a long-forgotten history of a new-style winter sport that spread from eastern Canada across the northlands of North American and the British Empire. The sport and its uniform repurposed Indigenous technology and enacted a new winter whiteness. This history illuminates late 19th century imperial agendas and the colonization of winter lands, in what James Belich terms “the Anglo-world.” Canada was the birthplace of this phenomenon; but this was not only a Canadian story. Rather, a Canadian sport became a globalized cultural model for broad territorial claims. The craze for tobogganing redefined winter. Blanket coats emerged as a fashionable imperial livery wherever dominance over snow-covered lands was the goal – plus dominance over Indigenous peoples. The tobogganing suit marked this contested passage, serving colonization and imperial aims.