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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter September 23, 2020

Words, Wares, Names: Dave the Potter as American Archive

Michael A. Chaney
From the journal Anglia


This article introduces readers to the enslaved African American crafter, David Drake, otherwise known as “Dave the Potter”, who incised poetry, signatures, dates, and sayings onto the stoneware ceramic jugs and plantation storage pots he made (from the 1830 s to the 1860s). In view of the concept of an archive, Dave the Potter’s works are significant as they are made up of writing and plastic arts, words and material. They not only record what has been thought through writing, they also perform through material languages of handles, spouts, bases, rims, etc. disruptions of the conventional functioning of the archive. If, as Derrida and others have argued, an archive confuses the content of cultural artefacts with the invested right of those housing an archive to interpret its content, then Dave the Potter’s incised jars perform this contradiction on their very surfaces, in their very design and construction, showing how the place or site of memory is also a house of hidden hermeneutic rights to remember.

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Published Online: 2020-09-23
Published in Print: 2020-09-15

© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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