The Interdisciplinary Archaeology Workshop is pleased to announce its first workshop of the year.
Thursday, October 16th
In which there will be a presentation by-
Geneviève Godbout- PhD Candidate
Department of Anthropology
University of Chicago
Luxury: a view from British Colonial Antigua, 1783-1904
Tropical products, including sugar, turtles and pineapples from the Caribbean island of Antigua, were instrumental to the definition of “taste” in imperial Britain during the eighteenth and nineteenth century. In historical scholarship, “taste” is usually understood either in terms of metaphysical aesthetic judgement (following Kant) or in terms of consumer practice (e.g. Stahl 2002, Wilkie 2000) . The rise of taste as a coordinate of social differentiation and as a particular mode of expertise in assemblage-making, was indeed rooted in the practices of material acquisition which characterized the period, including the profound transformations in food consumption and dining experienced in Metropolitain Britain at the time. Nevertheless, archaeologists of British colonial contexts all too often fall back on price indexes and etiquette manuals printed in Britain (e.g. Soyer, Beeton 1861) to understand social distinction in domestic assemblages associated with settler households, glossing over the complex processes of cultural negotiation and innovation that were at work in the West Atlantic. Using data from the kitchen yard of the Betty’s Hope Plantation site in Antigua and from the documentary archive relating to the management of the Estate between 1783 and 1904, this paper examines how the conceptual models that archaeologists deploy to make sense of white planter sociality in the Caribbean tend to rely uncritically on British metropolitan criteria of taste and on the ill-defined archaeological tope of “luxury good”. Implications for the study of British colonial societies in the West Atlantic more broadly are considered.
*******The Workshop Will be Followed by a Pubnight*******