13. March 2024

"Beyond the Classical Archives: Dress as Embodied Histories, Memory, and Orality in and from the Caribbean" SOCARE Keynote Steeve O. Buckridge

SOCARE Keynote by Steeve O. Buckridge

We're delighted that Professor Steeve Buckridge (Grand Valley State University, MI) will give the keynote lecture as part of the SOCARE EARLY-CAREER SYMPOSIUM 2024: (Im)materiality, new archives and the Caribbean 

SOCARE Keynote Lecture by Prof. Steeve Buckridge
SOCARE Keynote Lecture by Prof. Steeve Buckridge © BCDSS
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When: 21 March 2024, 17:00-18:30

Where: Bonner Universitätsforum, Heussallee 18-24, 53113 Bonn or Online via Zoom


Please register via email to: events@dependency.uni-bonn.de


Abstract: As scholars, rarely do we try to read objects as we read books--to comprehend the people and the times that created these objects or 'belongings.' However, the study of dress objects as material culture seeks to change this by exposing material evidence to historical analysis. Material culture is the study of artifacts and physical objects to understand the beliefs, values, ideas, attitudes and assumptions of a particular community or society at a given time (i). It is not my intent to establish the primary importance of dress as opposed to documents, but to demonstrate how dress is parallel to written archival materials and is a source for historical analysis. As Henry Glassie has appropriately stated, "For too long historians have left out vast realms of experience that do not fit into words at all, that can only be shaped into artifacts" (ii). 

Material culture is especially important for studying those individuals who left no written records. The lapse in documentary evidence in archival institutions and the absence of slave testimony across some areas of the Caribbean requires new and innovative methods of research to access the lives and lived experiences of enslaved and colonized people in the region. I argue more scholars need to venture into materials outside of the environment of the state archive and public library, to look at alternative sources like dress as an important source for historical knowledge and enquiry. Dress is a visual language, a form of archive that embodies histories, memory and orality and provides a window into the past as written archival documents do. The study of dress helps us to comprehend the role and uses of dress in shaping the experiences, escape process and representation of enslaved people of the Caribbean. The clothed body can tell a much larger story about African diasporic identity, sartorial style, and the representation of blackness.

(i) Mary Ellen Roach-Higgins, Joanne Eicher, and Kim Johnson eds., Dress and Identity. (New York: Fairchild, 1995), pp. 5–6.
(ii) Steven Lubar and W. David Kingery eds., History from Things. (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1993), pp. 1–17.


Read the full abstract here.

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