Guest Post: Things Colloquial: Material Culture at the 2013 Conference of the Society of Early Americanists

Today’s guest poster, Zara Anishanslin, is Assistant Professor of History at the College of Staten Island/City University of New York.  She received her PhD in the History of American Civilization at the University of Delaware in 2009, and from 2009-2010 was the Patrick Henry Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of History at Johns Hopkins University. She’s at work on her first book, Embedded Empire: Hidden Histories of Labor, Landscape, and Luxury in the British Atlantic World (Yale University Press, forthcoming).  Embedded Empire uses a single object—the portrait of a woman in a silk dress—and the four people who made it (the textile designer, the silk weaver, the colonial merchant’s wife, and the painter), to tell transatlantic material histories that challenge traditional narratives of emulative consumption.  She also serves as Co-Chair of the Seminar in Early American History and Culture at Columbia University.

Savannah is one of those southern cities where historic atmosphere and charm drape over everything like Spanish moss on live oaks. But amidst all this atmospheric charm, one of the sights I remember most was a distinctly uncharming thing: the desiccated body of a dead squirrel on a tray, tucked away in the attic of the Davenport House. I visited iconic Davenport House because it was the site of the Material Culture Colloquium at this year’s Society of Early Americanists’ conference.  (For a report on the conference, see Rachel Herrmann’s blog post).

Continue reading