Fashioning the Enslaved Servant, an interview with Dr. Jonathan Michael Square


Thank you so much for joining us today Dr Square. Welcome to dress. You so much for having me. I'm excited about the conversation. Yeah. Me Tell and what that conversation is. Really kind of going to center on today is part just part of your research for a book that you're working on currently. But. Before we get to that I'd like to ask you first how you came to the feel of fashion studies because this is something that I've started recently asking all of our guests. We actually get a lot of questions from people about like how do you become a fashion historian or fashion scholar and I, think it's really really interesting and compelling to hear about all of the various different passes study that kind of leave some of us to what we do. We'll April I was actually born fashion. I love that. But in all seriousness, nurtured a lifelong interest in creative expression. My parents went to art school in I grew up around their art. So anyone who's known me for a long time will tell you that art and fashion. They've always been passions of nine. There was a moment where I like dabbled with being a fashion blogger. Do remember fashion bloggers. Before influencers pre influencers. Exactly like if you Scroll Deacon. Some. Items, you'll see me trying to be a fashion blogger. I cringe. At, those posts. But I won't delete them because I have like this historians archiving in post like just like jump into your head from that moment. But in any case, didn't really start to identify as a fashion scholar into like the tail end of my doctoral studies and did a PhD in history it in my you. Know what I was doing. Created a digital humanities projects. Fascinating freedom. Admitted to be like online resources, people who are interested in the relationship between fashion, the fashion industry in. Slavery. In also being from the Vienna of always been interested in the history of slavery in my own history is an ascendant of enslaved peoples. So this my current research, digital humanities, projects, sort of Mary's those two interests. So but I would say dead, you know it's through that project. I became less a fashion consumer, a lover fashion in that became a real fashion scholar off the tonight fashioned myself. Myself into a fashion scholar, and we will definitely at the end when I ask you how people can find. You can tell people and direct people to that resource, which is still online. You know you're talking about being a historian and an you have remarked me in the past that our research is incredibly important to you, and that you I'm quoting you both fetish is and theorize the archive. In what way does that inform your research particularly, the research that you're doing right now yet, that's a great question. I mean. I think fashion designers, I don't think I know fashion designers use textiles in is story I used ticks in in a Lotta ways. I. Think it's the same intellectual work. In different mediums, my research based in part on abject analysis. So this chapter that we're going to describe amusing to as coastal worn by enslaved valets as appointed departure, but really the grist of the research lies in analysis of archival documentation. In historians, we're taught to think critically about the archive as an epistemological space. Was not just a repository of dusty. Oh documents. It's a place where knowledge is created. It's also a place where some narratives or privilege in other narratives are excluded are sidelined. In, all comes down to power. You know the word archive comes from over in ancient, Greek, which I will not bother butcher. On Your podcast. But the word means to be I, are to rule. So a lot of words that convey power in control whether it's Monarch are hierarchy or anarchy sort of the Ri- from the same word. So archives are about power. In the archive in those who control, they'd have the power to save bonaire to. Are To control. The way history is told whether it's historical figure our nation. In my particular case, it's a for profit company. In Brooks brothers particular. Its archive is run by a DC based marketing firm in corporate archive known as the history factory. It was founded in nineteen, seventy, nine in the history factory helps construct corporate identities and build brand narratives, and so you can think about the survival of Brooks, brothers. Archive is being indebted. To this firm. Founders of the history factory actually restyle to brooks brothers in the late Seventies. Early Eighties when the company was on the brink of bankruptcy, you know people weren't really buying suits anymore and they really had to restructure. In. This firm basically archived at his own expense. It doesn't they believe that it was important. For the history of the company now myself getting lost in. The weeds, the research? When the company was bought by Claudio Delvecchio. Awesome Brooks sputters, enthusiasts, he paid for the the BECO IT expenses. In History Company, she still advises Brooks Brothers. The often tell them to focus on innovation in nonconformity on, of course, their brand strategy sort of ACLU's any connection to slavery, but you can think about the survival of Brooks is being due to like the generosity are the largest of these like to wealthy white man who have emotional connections to the brand

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