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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Engaging the Tools of Resistance: Enslaved Africans' Tactics of Collective and Individual Consumption in Food, Medicine, and Clothing in the Great Dismal Swamp
by Goode, Cynthia Vollbrecht, Ph.D., American University, 2018, 408; 10786216
Abstract (Summary)

The Great Dismal Swamp, located in Virginia and North Carolina, was a landscape of resistance for enslaved Africans who fled to its interior maronnage settlements. But how did the enslaved workers who were forced to participate in the slavery-based capitalist economy find avenues to perform acts of resistance within these circumstances, and were they able to interact with or facilitate maroons and refugees escaping through the swamp? This research questions the role of material culture consumption as a form of resistance in the Great Dismal Swamp by exploring the historical and archaeological records of Dismal Town, Site 44SK70, and Jericho Ditch Work Camp, Site 44SK506, where enslaved men and women lived and worked during the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries. The Dismal Swamp Company (1763-1814), headquartered at Dismal Town plantation along the Washington Ditch, was one of the first corporations to exploit the swamp’s natural resources. Its successor was the Dismal Swamp Land Company (1810-1871), headquartered at the sawmills at Jericho Town, with work camps spread throughout the swamp including the work camp on the Jericho Ditch. Opportunities for and tactics of resistance changed as the company changed its name and transitioned from a slave-owning, plantation-style labor system of agricultural production to a more industrialized, slave-leasing, task-based system of lumbering and shingle production. Because material culture plays a role in power-laden social relationships, the consumption and use of materials culture can constitute resistance on both an individual and collective level. This resistive consumption can take many forms, self-determination and persistence in expressions of cultural identity, or the ability to legally purchase freedom for one’s self or family with saved wages, or even the ability to supply and facilitate fugitives within the GDS through redistribution in an internal economy. This research will prove that resistance can be a pervasive, persistent, and hidden range of practices and tactics used by people in their everyday lives through the seemingly mundane choices of how to cook and serve food, prescribe medical treatments, and acquire clothing and personal items.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Sayers, Daniel O.
Commitee: Burton, Orisanmi, Greene, Lance, Watkins, Rachel
School: American University
Department: Anthropology
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-A 79/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: African American Studies, Archaeology, American history
Keywords: Consumption, Dismal swamp company, Great dismal swamp, Resistance, Slavery
Publication Number: 10786216
ISBN: 978-0-355-87586-7
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