A Chained Melody: Queering Ceramic Industries in 19th century South Carolina

Author(s): Shawn Fields; Jamie Arjona

Year: 2016


During the antebellum period, ceramic industries began to sprout up across South Carolina’s agricultural landscape. In the Edgefield district, located near the South Carolina-Georgia border, a number of family-owned kilns contracted enslaved laborers from nearby plantations to mass-produce stoneware for sale throughout the Southeast. Innovative alkaline glaze technologies became the foundation for experimental ceramic traditions and styles. A long-held local fascination with these ceramic industries, and their products, captured the attention of art historians, contemporary folk potters and collectors throughout the course of the last several decades. Much of the scholarship pertaining to these ceramics stems from the imprint of an enslaved African-American potter known as Dave Drake. His inscriptions of poetic verses along with his signature on immense pots were a catalyst for the mythification of Drake during, and after, his life. Drawing from queer theory and recent archaeological findings, we reconsider heteronormative discourses related to Dave’s life and art. Specifically, we highlight the ways in which queer intimacies and abject bodies worked to queer these ceramic industries. In doing so, we illustrate how clay intimacies afforded maneuverings in industrial environments laden with oppressive forms of racial domination.

Cite this Record

A Chained Melody: Queering Ceramic Industries in 19th century South Carolina. Shawn Fields, Jamie Arjona. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403634)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -91.274; min lat: 24.847 ; max long: -72.642; max lat: 36.386 ;