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This study analyzes the consumption of European glass beads at two fugitive slave villages in nineteenth-century Kenya, Koromio and Makoroboi. The consumer choices of Koromio and Makoroboi residents reveal a strategic and symbolic material language. Specifically, the inter-household distribution of European glass beads reflects considerable variation in the performance of female identity. This distribution suggests varying norms of feminine adornment. Some of these norms likely originated in runaways’ natal communities; others may have developed during enslavement. The variability in adornment practices additionally points to women’s improvisation amid shifting gender relations in these nascent fugitive slave communities.

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Coastal Kenya

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