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The Disobedient Isle: Bermudian Aesthetic and Material Culture in the British Atlantic, 1609-1753

Charuhas, Christina Alexis

This dissertation examines the unique aesthetic and material culture produced in and around the historically misunderstood island of Bermuda from the beginning of its European discovery through the height of its economic prosperity in the mid-eighteenth-century. As a naturally uninhabited island located in the northern Atlantic Ocean, I argue that the first cartographic images of Bermuda alternately pictured it as a virgin utopia and foreboding “Isle of Devils” for captivated European audiences. Following the settlement in 1609, however, I demonstrate how Bermuda’s own visual culture illustrates islanders’ efforts to challenge these mythologies and develop a local culture predicated on colonial disobedience, economic opportunism, and Atlantic cosmopolitanism. Each chapter of my dissertation thereby examines a separate category of aesthetic objects related to Bermuda’s cultural development, beginning with cartographic maps and continuing to natural history illustrations, portraiture, and woven straw bonnets made as part of a profitable cottage industry.
Given my alternating my focus on locally and externally produced Bermudian objects, this dissertation participates in post-colonial studies that challenge the privileging of the metropole over colony. Indeed, as participants in a predominately maritime economy, I argue that eighteenth-century Bermudians were deeply connected to communities throughout the British Atlantic and used the objects circulating in this space to craft multiple, locally resonant identities. The broad range of object categories considered in this work also creates new space for examining the lived experiences of
Bermudian slaves, who are traditionally under-represented in the historical record. As these Creole- and Anglo-Bermudians also went on to live and work in other Caribbean and North American colonies throughout the British Atlantic, I argue that they also disseminate Bermudian experiences abroad and helped integrated islanders’ unique interpretations of British colonial identity into the transatlantic cultural webs linking these communities throughout the long eighteenth-century.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Art History and Archaeology
Thesis Advisors
Hutchinson, Elizabeth West
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 16, 2015