Cover image for Possible pasts : becoming colonial in early America
Possible pasts : becoming colonial in early America
St. George, Robert Blair.
Publication Information:
Ithaca, N.Y. : Cornell University Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xii, 417 pages : illustrations, map ; 23 cm
General Note:
Based on papers presented at a conference held in June 1994 at the University of Pennsylvania, sponsored by the McNeil Center for Early American Studies and the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E101 .P67 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Possible Pasts represents a landmark in early American studies, bringing to that field the theoretical richness and innovative potential of the scholarship on colonial discourse and postcolonial theory. Drawing on the methods and interpretive insights of history, anthropology, history of art, folklore, and textual analysis, its authors explore the cultural processes by which individuals and societies become colonial.Rather than define early America in terms of conventional geographical, chronological, or subdisciplinary boundaries, their essays span landscapes from New England to Peru, time periods from the sixteenth to the mid-nineteenth century, and topics from religion to race and novels to nationalism. In his introduction Robert Blair St. George offers an overview of the genealogy of ideas and key terms appearing in the book.Part I, "Interrogating America," then challenges readers to rethink the meaning of "early America" and its relation to postcolonial theory. In Part II, "Translation and Transculturation," essays explore how both Europeans and native peoples viewed such concepts as dissent, witchcraft, family piety, and race. The construction of individual identity and agency in Philadelphia is the focus of Part III, "Shaping Subjectivities." Finally, Part IV, "Oral Performance and Personal Power," considers the ways in which political authority and gendered resistance were established in early America.

Author Notes

Louise M. Burkhart is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University at Albany, State University of New York
Toby L. Ditz is Professor of History at the Johns Hopkins University
Sandra M. Gustafson is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Notre Dame
David D. Hall teaches American history and religion at Harvard Divinity School
Peter Hulme is Professor of Literature at the University of Essex
Susan Juster is Associate Professor of History at the University of Michigan
Margaretta M. Lovell is Associate Professor of History of Art and codirector of American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley
Jose Antonio Mazzotti is Assistant Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures at Harvard University, where he specializes in Latin American literature
Michael Meranze is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, San Diego
Laura J. Murray is Associate Professor of English at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, where she teaches American and Native American literatures
Anne G. Myles is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Northern Iowa
Dana D. Nelson is Professor of English and Social Theory at the University of Kentucky
Robert Blair St. George is Associate Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania
Irene Silverblatt is Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University
Carroll Smith-Rosenberg is Professor of History at the University of Michigan
John K. Thornton teaches in the Department of History at Millersville University of Pennsylvania
Michael Warner is Professor of English at Rutgers University

Table of Contents

Robert Blair St. GeorgePeter HulmeMichael WarnerLouise M. BurkhartAnne G. MylesIrene SilverblattJose Antonio MazzottiDavid D. HallLaura J. MurrayJohn K. ThorntonDana D. NelsonToby L. DitzCarroll Smith-RosenbergMargaretta M. LovellMichael MeranzeRobert Blair St. GeorgeSusan JusterSandra M. Gustafson
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. 1
Part 1 Interrogating America
Postcolonial Theory and Early America: An Approach from the Caribbeanp. 33
What's Colonial about Colonial America?p. 49
Part 2 Translation and Transculturation
Dissent and Difference
The Native Translator as Critic: A Nahua Playwright's Interpretive Practicep. 73
Dissent and the Frontier of Translation: Roger Williams's A Key into the Language of Americap. 88
Colonial Visions
The Inca's Witches: Gender and the Cultural Work of Colonization in Seventeenth-Century Perup. 109
Mestizo Dreams: Transculturation and Heterogeneity in Inca Garcilaso de la Vegap. 131
Puritanism's Progress
From "Religion and Society" to Practices: The New Religious Historyp. 148
What Did Christianity Do for Joseph Johnson? A Mohegan Preacher and His Communityp. 160
Nation and Race
War, the State, and Religious Norms in "Coromantee" Thought: The Ideology of an African American Nationp. 181
Consolidating National Masculinity: Scientific Discourse and Race in the Post-Revolutionary United Statesp. 201
Part 3 Shaping Subjectivities
Secret Selves, Credible Personas: The Problematics of Trust and Public Display in the Writing of Eighteenth-Century Philadelphia Merchantsp. 219
Black Gothic: The Shadowy Origins of the American Bourgeoisiep. 243
Bodies of Illusion: Portraits, People, and the Construction of Memoryp. 270
A Criminal Is Being Beaten: The Politics of Punishment and the History of the Bodyp. 302
Part 4 Oral Performance, Personal Power
Massacred Language: Courtroom Performance in Eighteenth-Century Bostonp. 327
"Neither male nor female": Jemima Wilkinson and the Politics of Gender in Post-Revolutionary Americap. 357
The Genders of Nationalism: Patriotic Violence, Patriotic Sentiment in the Performances of Deborah Sampson Gannettp. 380
Contributorsp. 401
Indexp. 405