For water, food, tables, and health: the colonial ceramic culture of Guadeloupe, French West Indies
Arcangeli, Myriam S. L.
MetadataShow full item record
Guadeloupe has a long French colonial past: it became a French West Indian colony in 1635 and is now a region of France. Compared to Martinique, its ties with France were more tenuous. Unlike in Saint-Domingue, its Creole population- both among masters and slaves- was proportionally larger and formed the core of its society. These qualities make it an ideal site to examine the formation of French Creole culture during the colonial period. Ceramics can help by shedding light on local practices in managing water, cooking, formal dining, and health and hygiene. My analysis is based on the concept of ceramic culture and fits within the broader framework of interpretive archaeology. Considering ceramics as a coherent segment of material culture and focusing on a detailed understanding of what they did for their users enhances their analysis. In Guadeloupe, this approach led me to introduce a new class of ceramics for early modern societies-the water ceramics-and study how water was stored in the domestic sphere. Guadeloupe offered a good terrain for applying this concept. The data came from four sites in the historic capital of Basse-Terre, including the fort of Charles Houel, an influential early leader; and a middling house built in the late eighteenth century, where both white and mixed-race families lived with their slaves. I also analyzed 145 probate inventories covering the years 1774 to 1833. Their rich socio-economic and spatial information allowed me to compare how different economic classes used each type of ceramic object, and how masters and slaves interacted inside the Creole home. Female servants held some important, but historically unacknowledged roles: they managed the water supply of their masters and, with coarse earthenware cookware, invented an array of Creole dishes that form the base of French Antillean cuisine. French faiences helped the Creole elite fashion itself at social events. Objects such as chamber pots, barber's bowls, and drug pots, as well as Antillean folk medical practices, suggest that Guadeloupeans were less afraid of water than the French, and had better hygienic habits- at least, they bathed and shaved more.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University
RightsThis work is being made available in OpenBU by permission of its author, and is available for research purposes only. All rights are reserved to the author.