Sartorial Performance and Recognition during the Seven Years’ War
Saturday, January 4, 2014: 9:20 AM
Columbia Hall 1 (Washington Hilton)
Much of the attention paid to the Bostonians who dressed as Indians during the Boston Tea Party has explained this act as the adoption of an othered Indian clothing and culture in order to permit an act of imperial insubordination. This paper seeks to stretch the boundaries and rationales of such moments in mid-eighteenth century North America. It investigates a series of incidents where French and British individuals assumed indigenous American dress and role-play during the Seven Years’ War. Clothing is not often thought of as a means of conducting war (except in terms of privation) and yet, in these contexts, these men clearly placed a value on identifying “true” habit from false and drew on this knowledge defensively. What was at stake when French prisoners refused to be hoodwinked by their British captors dressed up “as Indians” to scare their charges with the threat of violence? What threat was such dress meant to imply? When French planters on Martinique, unable to distinguish between Royal American rangers and “real” Indians, fled their lands, how did this shape British officers’ opinions of their enemy? The paper will conclude thinking about how American Indians interpreted these actions, conducted by both their allies and enemies.