CFP: Fabricating Truths: African-American Women and Clothing in the 19th Century (C19; 8.28.15)

Fabricating Truths: African-American Women and Clothing in the 19th Century

Proposed Panel for the c19 conference

From runaway slave notices identifying the details of women’s clothing to Elizabeth Keckley’s depictions of dressmaking in Behind the Scenes: Or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House (1868), clothing figures prominently in portrayals of African-American women’s lives in the nineteenth century. However, this aspect of African-American women’s history has yet to be analyzed with the fullness it deserves. This proposed panel for the c19 conference seeks papers that analyze depictions of clothing in the cultural or literary productions linked to or produced by African-American women during the 19th century. The questions animating the proposed panel are these: How might analyses of the wearing and making of clothing in the American 19th century further or deepen understandings of the issues that were pertinent to African-American women’s lives during this period? What stories does clothing tell about the transitions from enslavement to emancipation, particularly regarding the shifting conditions of African-American women’s work? Given c19’s conference theme of “Unsettling,” are there assumed narratives or histories that analyses of clothing might begin to unsettle? As the title of the panel suggests, we are particularly interested in papers that seek to illuminate the roles clothing has played in African-American women’s efforts to compose visual and material arguments that undo the “truths” enslavement and its aftermaths fabricated about their lives, bodies, and sexualities.

Please submit 250 word proposals and 100 word biographies to Kimberly Lamm by August 28th 2015. The c19 conference will take place March 17-20, 2016.