“Intimate Entanglement: The Gendered Politics of Race and Family in the Gulf South"

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“Intimate Entanglement: The Gendered Politics of Race and Family in the Gulf South,” uses manuscript court records, newspapers, records of colonial administrators, and accounts of merchants and travelers to investigate the ways in which cross-cultural peoples practiced an adaptive gender culture in the Gulf South in the era between 1740-1840. “Intimate Entanglement” argues that a protean understanding of the gendered dynamics within the family allowed Anglo-Native peoples to eschew the racial categorization imposed upon them by Anglo-Americans while also self-fashioning identities that allowed for maximum autonomy and for the protection of their wealth and status within Native communities.

Familiar with both the matrilineal/matrifocal familial arrangements of the Five Tribes of the Gulf South as well as the gendered norms associated with the Anglo-American patriarchal family, cross-cultural peoples decided which identities they presented for public consumption depending upon the needs of a particular situation. This practice became prevalent during the colonial era, when increased contact between Anglo and Native peoples created unstable gendered and racial identities. By the early nineteenth century, Anglo-Americans had embraced a rigid definition of white patriarchal identity that centered Anglo men’s ability to control subordinates, own slaves, and exploit property, enslaved persons, and other forms of wealth. At the same time, Anglo-Americans embraced a new racial hierarchy which sought to consign people of Native and African ancestry to the same inferior position. Cross-cultural people fought this new racialization by continuing to practice the flexible understandings of gender that had its roots in the colonial past.