Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Barbara J. Heath

Committee Members

Gerald F. Schroedl, Bertin M. Louis Jr., Derek Alderman, Matthew Reeves


Institutionalized slavery helped to create the concept of race in the American mind and forced people into new social categories based on superficial bodily characteristics. These new social categories resulted in the formation of identities that were continuously negotiated, reinforced or challenged through daily bodily practices of self-presentation that included ways of dress, adornment, and physical action. Because slavery was defined on the body, an embodiment approach to plantation archaeology can shed new light on the construction of racial identities. This historical archaeology project combines an archaeological analysis of personal adornment artifacts with a close reading of travel sketches, mass-produced satirical illustrations, and runaway advertisements Through these textual, visual and material sources this project traces the daily practices of presentation of self in 18th-century rural Virginia, revealing how plantation members of both races negotiated multiple identities within the confines of this system.

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