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August 30, 2017
9781421423128
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80929
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August 30, 2017
9781421423135
9781421423128
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80929
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9.00 Inches (US)
6.00 Inches (US)
$54.95 USD, £40.50 GBP
v2.1 Reference

In the Looking Glass

Mirrors and Identity in Early America

What did it mean, Rebecca K. Shrum asks, for people—long-accustomed to associating reflective surfaces with ritual and magic—to became as familiar with how they looked as they were with the appearance of other people? Fragmentary histories tantalize us with how early Americans—people of Native, European, and African descent—interacted with mirrors.

Shrum argues that mirrors became objects through which white men asserted their claims to modernity, emphasizing mirrors as fulcrums of truth that enabled them to know and master themselves and their world. In claiming that mirrors revealed and substantiated their own enlightenment and rationality, white men sought to differentiate how they used mirrors from not only white women but also from Native Americans and African Americans, who had long claimed ownership of and the right to determine the meaning of mirrors for themselves. Mirrors thus played an important role in the construction of early American racial and gender hierarchies.

Drawing from archival research, as well as archaeological studies, probate inventories, trade records, and visual sources, Shrum also assesses extant mirrors in museum collections through a material culture lens. Focusing on how mirrors were acquired in America and by whom, as well as the profound influence mirrors had, both individually and collectively, on the groups that embraced them, In the Looking Glass is a piece of innovative textual and visual scholarship.

About the Author

Rebecca K. Shrum is an assistant professor of history and the assistant director of the public history program at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis.

Endorsements

"A very interesting and thought-provoking book about the cultural role, multifaceted meanings, and uses of mirrors and looking glasses in early America. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, Shrum offers a rich and compelling account."

- Jennifer L. Anderson, author of Mahogany: The Costs of Luxury in Early America

Reviews

"This brief volume, meticulously footnoted, generously illustrated, and beautifully produced by the Johns Hopkins University Press, could certainly be adopted in advanced undergraduate and graduate courses. It might well teach history majors and graduate students the value of daring to ask questions for which there are no easy or complete answers, and of painstakingly piecing together fragmentary evidence from a wide range of archival, archaeological, and material collections. Shrum’s intelligent use of cultural theory and interdisciplinary perspectives might also serve as a model for advanced history students."

- The History Teacher

"A superb reflection of the many meanings held by an object usually taken for granted. Highly recommended."

- Choice

"Shrum's work is required reading for upcoming scholars who are attempting to trace the social life of things in the formation of American identities."

- Christopher Allison, University of Chicago - Journal of Southern History

"In the Looking Glass: Mirrors and Identity in Early America is an important contribution to the fields of early American history, material culture studies, and cultural and American studies. Shrum's study will help scholars recognize how the study of records and other historical evidence, in highlighting the silence of certain groups of people, also enables us to see what forces determined those silences."

- Chiara Cillerai, St. John's University - Early American Literature

"Shrum's accomplishment is to tease out the many meanings that made looking glasses among the most widely owned and used consumer good in early America."

- Paul G. E. Clemens, Rutgers University-New Brunswick - Reviews in American History

"Rebecca Shrum's [In the Looking Glass] packs a powerful punch. Moving deftly over the course of three centuries, she presents an original, interdisciplinary and utterly fascinating reading of the multiple uses and meanings of mirrors among European Americans, African Americans, and Native Americans... an important and thoughtprovoking study of a widely used object, which we all too often take for granted, and its very exceptional history."

- Sharon Halevi, University of Haifa - Journal of Social History

"Shrum's thesis builds as a crescendo from detailed, meticulous attention in the initial chapters to the production technologies and marketing of various kinds of mirrors to whites, Africans, and Native Americans to develop her powerful arguments and her claims in the concluding chapters concerning race, racialization, and racism... [Shrum] mobilizes a rich body of materials concisely to illustrate and support her thesis."

- Lester C. Olson, University of Pittsburgh - Journal of American History

9781421423128 : in-the-looking-glass-shrum
Hardback
232 Pages
$54.95 USD
9781421423135 : in-the-looking-glass-shrum
Electronic book text
232 Pages
$54.95 USD

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