[Marxism] Fwd: H-Net Review [H-War]: Sparacio on Frank and Crothers, 'Borderland Narratives: Negotiation and Accommodation in North America's Contested Spaces, 1500-1850'

Andrew Stewart hasc.warrior.stew at gmail.com
Thu Jan 24 20:40:08 MST 2019

Best regards,
Andrew Stewart 

Begin forwarded message:

> From: H-Net Staff via H-REVIEW <h-review at lists.h-net.org>
> Date: January 24, 2019 at 6:59:36 PM EST
> To: h-review at lists.h-net.org
> Cc: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.org>
> Subject: H-Net Review [H-War]:  Sparacio on Frank and  Crothers, 'Borderland Narratives: Negotiation and Accommodation in North America's Contested Spaces, 1500-1850'
> Reply-To: h-review at lists.h-net.org
> Andrew K. Frank, A. Glenn Crothers, eds.  Borderland Narratives: 
> Negotiation and Accommodation in North America's Contested Spaces, 
> 1500-1850.  Contested Boundaries Series. Tallahassee  University 
> Press of Florida, 2017.  224 pp.  $74.95 (cloth), ISBN 
> 978-0-8130-5495-7.
> Reviewed by Matthew Sparacio (Auburn University)
> Published on H-War (January, 2019)
> Commissioned by Margaret Sankey
> Borderlands of Faith, Race, and Violence
> What constitutes a borderland? Historians have debated whether or not 
> a borderland should be considered a binary dividing line scattered 
> with specific "contact points" or broad zones of interaction, whether 
> they should be confined to only one region of study or applied 
> broadly to the American colonial experience.[1] The studies included 
> in Andrew K. Frank and A. Glenn Crothers's new edited volume, 
> _Borderland Narratives: Negotiation and Accommodation in North 
> America's Contested Spaces, 1500-1850_, offer refreshing 
> contributions to this debate, illustrating how borderlands can 
> operate as both products and processes of colonization. In 
> particular, Frank and Crothers answer Claudio Saunt's 2008 _William 
> & Mary Quarterly_ rejoinder against the neglect of scholarly 
> attention west of the British Eastern Seaboard colonies by arguing 
> for the inclusion of the Ohio River Valley, a "region infrequently 
> considered a borderland" (p. 9).[2] The Ohio River Valley, they 
> argue, proved massively important because the diversity of the region 
> was both indicative and reflective of the experiences that shaped 
> what historian and director of the Omohundro Institute of Early 
> American History and Culture Karin Wulf has coined 
> #vastearlyamerica.[3] 
> As the studies in _Borderland Narratives_ make clear, these products 
> and processes can be defined along religious, racial, environmental, 
> and military lines. Borderlands not only were politically defined but 
> also came to represent important areas "where empires of belief vied 
> for ascendency" in early America (p. 174). Using missionary 
> correspondence in his chapter, Michael Pasquier examines the gray 
> area between the prescriptions of the Catholic Church and the lived 
> experience by missionaries in the diocese of Bardstown, Kentucky, 
> revealing how the latter exemplified the institutional limitations of 
> the former. Missionaries grew frustrated with the false expectations 
> they harbored--shaped in large part by the _Jesuit Relations_--and 
> priests in Bardstown "struggled to feel at home" (p. 137).  The 
> unwillingness of indigenous peoples to readily accept Catholicism 
> compounded this spatial and emotional disconnection, contributing to 
> a spiritual crisis among missionaries who came to view their own lack 
> of apparent success in intercultural proselytism as indictments of 
> their individual failures as Catholics. 
> If the example of Bardstown highlighted the way borderlands 
> functioned to constrict religious institutions, Philip Mulder's 
> chapter illustrates how these same environments also served as sites 
> of spiritual opportunity. However, the spiritual opportunities 
> afforded by the Ohio River Valley contributed to denominational 
> factionalism. For example, Presbyterian minister (and affiliate of 
> the Connecticut Missionary Society) Joseph Badger's acceptance of 
> emotive outdoor meetings brought him into conflict with fellow 
> Presbyterians. Men like Badger who preached a syncretic message that 
> clearly demonstrated genuine concern for native families, however, 
> proved the exception in the religiously contested Ohio River Valley, 
> as Baptists and Methodists disregarded moderation and accommodation, 
> instead demanding complete cultural transformations of both natives 
> and settlers. Taken together, Pasquier's and Mulder's studies serve 
> as useful reminders that spiritual fault lines defined borderlands 
> well into the nineteenth century. 
> Like religious identity, racial identity figured prominently in early 
> American borderlands, shaping communities and everyday life. In his 
> chapter, Frank notes the liminal place of African Americans within 
> the process of Seminole ethnogenesis. In general, African American 
> communities offered the Seminoles tribute for protection, paralleling 
> the "daughter town" phenomenon practiced by much of the native South. 
> Yet by the nineteenth century--and especially after western 
> removal--the decline in African American infusions into Seminole 
> communities galvanized a distinctly "native" Seminole identity that 
> moved away from the multiethnic definition that preceded it. 
> At the same time racial identity hardened in native Florida, Cyprian 
> Clamorgan's life highlighted the legal and jurisdictional fluidity 
> present in the borderlands of St. Louis. As Julie Winch shows, 
> exceptional men like Clamorgan could navigate major port cities by 
> claiming status as a free black due to their skin color. They could 
> also potentially weaponize their identity through print culture in 
> order to secure legal outcomes, like when Clamorgan threatened to 
> reveal the racial impurity of many influential St. Louis bloodlines. 
> The case of Clamorgan, himself a product of generations of (mostly 
> unhappy) interracial relationships, demonstrates how "circumstances 
> (and identities) would change swiftly in the racial borderlands for 
> those who had the option to refashion their lives" (p. 205). 
> Tyler Boulware notes the importance of horses to the many 
> southeastern tribes, reminding scholars that an equine revolution 
> with significant environmental consequences occurred all throughout 
> Native America and not simply among the Plains Indians. In addition 
> to martial purposes, horses (especially the Spanish barb) proved an 
> essential component to the southeastern exchange economy because they 
> allowed for easier hunting. Boulware expands the focus of James T. 
> Carson's previous work on the Choctaw horse economy to include all 
> the native South, explaining how local environments dictated the 
> borderland trade, resulting in distinctive cultural accoutrements 
> among the various southeastern Indians.[4] Like Carson beforehand, he 
> argues that horses were not exclusively used for masculine endeavors 
> but also significantly altered women's work. Boulware also brings 
> Virginia DeJohn Anderson's argument in _Creatures of Empire: How 
> Domestic Animals Transformed Early America_ (2006) that animals acted 
> as agents of empire into the late eighteenth and nineteenth 
> centuries, detailing how Americans often used horses to "compromise 
> treaty lines" (p. 87). 
> Most settlers and Euro-American administrators believed the 
> borderlands to be contested places and sites of political and 
> military significance. Authority was not simply declared, as Rob 
> Harper shows in his chapter on Ohio Valley frontier politicking. He 
> illustrates how coalition building proved a necessary practice in the 
> decade leading up to the American Revolution because "the weakness of 
> formal political institutions made the 'power' of individuals 
> contingent upon their relationships with others" (p. 21). This was 
> not an easy endeavor, as many practices stood in the way of coalition 
> building: the diversity of separate communities and the distrust this 
> fostered; different languages to translate; individual agency (or, on 
> a larger scale, outright factionalism); and the agendas of patronage 
> networks. Colonial and native leaders maintained a delicate peace in 
> spite of these factors. However, increasing levels of settler 
> migrations into these lands accounted for the militant about-face of 
> Ohio native leaders, such as Logan (Haudenosaunee) and Guyasuta 
> (Seneca). Native responses in turn required deft coalition building 
> on behalf of Virginia colonial governor Dunmore by men like Daniel 
> Boone and George Croghan. Ultimately, these men relied on maintaining 
> peaceful relations with specific native communities to nominally 
> assert Virginia's claims to authority. While Harper's coalition 
> framework is a useful reminder of historians' (still) prevalent 
> deployment of Richard White's foundational "middle ground" thesis, it 
> can be further decolonized. If viewed east from Indian country, were 
> not the "lines of ethnicity" and kinship--the "informal networks" 
> Harper classifies as essential to coalition building--already 
> considered by Native Americans as formal and legitimate frameworks? 
> Efforts at coalition building continued into the nineteenth century, 
> as Rebekah Mergenthal explains, but were driven more by economic 
> necessity than political claims. Recovering the contingency of 
> settlers, slaves, and Native Americans along a thirty-mile stretch in 
> the Missouri River Valley, she outlines the efforts of local whites 
> and Indian interests to bypass federal discouragement of the hiring 
> out of slaves across borders. While the US government feared 
> potential collusion among nonwhites, Mergenthal notes that these 
> groups rarely worked in concert. Native slaveholding preferences gave 
> their western lands "little appeal" to the enslaved looking for 
> freedom (p. 134). Therefore, blacks rarely escaped to Indian country; 
> instead they chose to flee east to Illinois or north to Iowa. 
> Division on this issue was present not only between groups but also 
> within them: there was often disagreement among native peoples, who 
> sought as much distance between themselves and settler communities, 
> and their chiefs, who at times gravitated toward the agendas of 
> missionary groups like the Quakers and Methodists. 
> Perhaps the most original contribution to this volume, and of special 
> interest to scholars of war and society, is Carla Gerona's 
> reimagining of the contact period along the Gulf Coast and Texas. 
> Gerona argues for the usefulness in deploying _los desaparecidos_ 
> (the disappeared) terminology associated with the twentieth-century 
> Latin American military coups in Argentina and Chile to the contact 
> era because "disappearances came to mark the borderlands for 
> Spaniards and Indians alike" (p. 97). Relying on early travel 
> accounts to Florida and Texas, Gerona claims that grappling with _los 
> desaparecidos_ became a "known fact of life" in early America (p. 
> 99). War, disease, and forced flight created for both groups new 
> environments that grew increasingly empty and desolate, defined more 
> by the people who were absent than those present. This provocative 
> reinterpretation addresses the main components of the "shatter zone" 
> framework posited by Robbie Ethridge and may also provide scholars a 
> deeper understanding of the individual personal traumas and feelings 
> of displacement that became "the most central and significant factors 
> shaping borderlands" (p. 116).[5] While many chapters in _Borderland 
> Narratives_ speak to the opportunities afforded by these spaces, 
> Gerona reminds us that borderlands also represented sites of loss, 
> disorientation, and anguish. 
> _Borderlands Narratives_ is an important collection that scholars of 
> early America must take seriously. Its individual chapters are well 
> suited for advanced undergraduate and graduate seminars across a 
> variety of fields, including Native American studies, the history of 
> colonialism, diplomatic history, and environmental history. In 
> particular, graduate students reviewing for comprehensive exams will 
> be hard-pressed to find a more nuanced historiographic primer on 
> frontier and borderlands studies than Frank and Crothers's 
> introduction to this volume. The contributions in _Borderlands 
> Narratives_ will continue to push historians to reevaluate and 
> question our assumptions about the crossroads of life in 
> #vastearlyamerica. 
> Notes 
> [1]. Andrew R. L. Cayton and Fredrika J. Teute, eds., _Contact 
> Points: American Frontiers from the Mohawk Valley to the Mississippi, 
> 1750-1830_ (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press for the 
> Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, 1998). 
> [2]. Claudio Saunt, "Go West: Mapping Early American Historiography," 
> _The William and Mary Quarterly_, 3rd ser., 65, no. 4 (October 2008): 
> 745-778. 
> [3]. Karin Wulf, "For 2016, Appreciating #VastEarlyAmerica," 
> _Uncommon Sense - The Blog_ (blog), January 4, 2016, 
> https://blog.oieahc.wm.edu/for-2016-appreciating-vastearlyamerica/. 
> [4]. James Taylor Carson, "Horses and the Economy and Culture of the 
> Choctaw Indians, 1690-1840," _Ethnohistory_ 42, no. 3 (Summer 1995): 
> 495-513. 
> [5]. Robbie Ethridge, "Introduction: Mapping the Mississippian 
> Shatter Zone," in _Mapping the Mississippian Shatter Zone: The 
> Colonial Indian Slave Trade and Regional Instability in the American 
> South_, ed. Robbie Ethridge and Sheri M. Shuck-Hall (Lincoln: 
> University of Nebraska Press, 2009), 1-62. 
> Citation: Matthew Sparacio. Review of Frank, Andrew K.; Crothers, A. 
> Glenn, eds., _Borderland Narratives: Negotiation and Accommodation in 
> North America's Contested Spaces, 1500-1850_. H-War, H-Net Reviews. 
> January, 2019.
> URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=53521
> This work is licensed under a Creative Commons 
> Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States 
> License.

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