What’s in a Button?: Sartorial Artifacts, Colonial Journeys, and the Archaeological Imagination

Author(s): Johanna A. Pacyga

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "One of a Kind: Approaching the Singular Artifact and the Archaeological Imagination" session, at the 2019 annual meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology.

Archaeological objects related to clothing wield an affective power derived from their inherent closeness to the historical body, to the life of a particular individual. Despite being quotidian and even mass-produced, such artifacts become singular by virtue of their role in practices of embodiment. Turning to the colonial context, objects that traced paths across the globe have the potential to become singular as a result of those journeys and their deposition in "new" locales. Mobilizing anthropological-archaeological, historical, design history, and even literary approaches, this paper interrogates how sartorial small finds are both reflective of colonial power and exchanges, but also able to humanize narratives of the past through their proximity to the body and ties to personal choices and practices. Through consideration of a Napoleonic button from a nineteenth-century French-African mission in Senegal, I posit that sartorial objects are uniquely positioned to bridge the gap between data analysis and narrative. 

Cite this Record

What’s in a Button?: Sartorial Artifacts, Colonial Journeys, and the Archaeological Imagination. Johanna A. Pacyga. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, St. Charles, MO. 2019 ( tDAR id: 449043)


Temporal Keywords
Nineteenth Century

Spatial Coverage

min long: -129.199; min lat: 24.495 ; max long: -66.973; max lat: 49.359 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Society for Historical Archaeology

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 341