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Exquisite Slaves
Race, Clothing, and Status in Colonial Lima


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  • Date Published: April 2019
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107445956

£ 24.99

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About the Authors
  • In Exquisite Slaves, Tamara J. Walker examines how slaves used elegant clothing as a language for expressing attitudes about gender and status in the wealthy urban center of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Lima, Peru. Drawing on traditional historical research methods, visual studies, feminist theory, and material culture scholarship, Walker argues that clothing was an emblem of not only the reach but also the limits of slaveholders' power and racial domination. Even as it acknowledges the significant limits imposed on slaves' access to elegant clothing, Exquisite Slaves also showcases the insistence and ingenuity with which slaves dressed to convey their own sense of humanity and dignity. Building on other scholars' work on slaves' agency and subjectivity in examining how they made use of myriad legal discourses and forums, Exquisite Slaves argues for the importance of understanding the body itself as a site of claims-making.

    • Pays careful attention to slaves' subjective experiences of slavery, gender, and identity
    • Provides a rich analysis of visual representations of people of African descent, who featured prominently in portraits and paintings of the era
    • Argues for the importance of understanding the body itself as a site of claims-making
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    • Winner, 2018 Harriet Tubman Prize, Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery

    Reviews & endorsements

    'Exquisite Slaves represents a unique and distinctive contribution to the history of racial formation in Spanish America which will command the attention of the scholarly community. This book considerably deepens our understanding of colonial racial formation.' Herman Bennett, City University of New York

    'Walker's invigorating analysis of enslaved and freed cultural agency is a welcome contribution to the history of slavery. Her unique focus on manners of dress and gendered public presentation underlines how slavery was rooted not just in daily events, but in intimate senses of self and others. Informed by an Atlantic vision, Walker's close reading of imagery and text charts a new path for how to write a history of the African Diaspora in Latin America.' Rachel Sarah O'Toole, University of California, Irvine

    '… Walker's book provides a novel account on the contradictory dressing practices of people of colour in colonial Lima as a tool that both submitted them to the colonial regime and allowed them to challenge the norms … the book is an important approximation for the advancement of fashion studies and dress history in Latin America.' Laura Beltran-Rubio, The Journal of Dress History

    'Students and experts interested in the African diaspora, material culture, racial identity, the formation of Blackness, and gender will surely benefit from this book.' Erika Denise Edwards, Hispanic American Historical Review

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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2019
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107445956
    • length: 242 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 153 x 14 mm
    • weight: 0.35kg
    • contains: 17 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Slavery and the aesthetic of mastery
    2. Legal status, gender, and self-fashioning
    3. Black bodies and boundary trouble
    4. Painting, print culture, and colonial ideation
    5. Ladies, gentlemen, slaves, and citizens

  • Author

    Tamara J. Walker, University of Pennsylvania
    Tamara J. Walker earned her Ph.D. in History from the University of Michigan. Her previous work has appeared in Slavery and Abolition, Safundi, Gender and History, and the Journal of Family History.


    • Winner, 2018 Harriet Tubman Prize, Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery

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