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Routes and Roots of Empire: Pots, Power, and Slavery in the 18th-Century British Caribbean



ABSTRACT  I draw on research from Jamaica and Dominica to track economic networks through analysis of ceramic assemblages from house yards of enslaved laborers. Ceramics produced in Europe and used by colonial subjects have been used to reinforce narratives in which empires jealously guarded mercantile trade regimes. The presence of local coarse earthenware made and used by people of African extraction allows an analysis of more localized networks—some of which transgressed social and political boundaries. Careful analysis allows us to extend this observation to some European-made ceramics as well. As such, ceramic assemblages speak to how boundaries were enacted differently depending on the status of the actors engaged in these transactions. Attention to the variegated economic practices of colonial residents provides one mechanism to map the distances between how colonies were imagined in the imperial center and the practices of everyday life of people living at the boundaries of empires.

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