F20 Black Atlantic: Resources, Pedagogy, and Scholarship on the 18th Century Black Atlantic

Questions about Archiving: Haitian History

Siobhan Mei's Feminist Translation Matters: Reading Fashion Materiality and Revolution in the English Language Translations of Marie Chauvet's La Danse sur volcan" details the many ways Haitian women resisted materially in the pre-revolutionary period in Haiti. Marie Chauvet's Dance on the Volcano chronicles the life of a free woman of color who is assimilated onto the stage because of her gifted singing ability. Her positionality is fraught because although she is free, she is still victim to the caste system of Haiti that divides the enslaves from the free people of color from the various classes of white French people. One of the persistent themes through the text is the ways women specifically resisted through materiality and consumption around sumptuary laws. The women in Dance on the Volcano wore elaborate headscarfs, jewels on their feet and other body adornments to ironically comment on the laws that required they cover their hair or go barefoot.

This form of resistance is interesting to me, but I also wonder where it falls short - especially when it comes to the archive. The fashion is a bodily performance and it consists of the material. Materials, as they are conceptualized by Chauvet, are a discourse of power. However, in the novel, it is quite tenuous because the power discourse over clothes or materiality is constantly being battled by a group that is perpetually underclassed. It is a temporary resistance - but a resistance none-the-less.

From this thought, I was led to think about archiving, documenting and otherwise collecting fashion and had a few questions:
  1. How do scholars, archivists, etc ensure that their collection of resistance fashion is contextualized. Of course, it can't just be a gallery, it has to paired with certain works and contextualization.
  2. How do you safeguard against appropriation?
  3. What is "worthy" of archiving? 

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