Imposters: Identity and Pretense in Europe and the Atlantic World, 1600–1800

Friday, October 8, 2004–Saturday, October 9, 2004
All Day

William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
2520 Cimarron Street

—a conference organized by Margaret C. Jacob, University of California, Los Angeles; Mary Lindemann, University of Miami; and Jeffrey S. Ravel, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The topic of imposture in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is one that is ripe for examination in a cross-cultural, transnational perspective. While the adventures of Giacomo Casanova or the Chevalier d’Eon were well known at the time and remain notorious today, they offer but two examples of the many forms of imposture by individuals and groups that occurred throughout Europe and the Atlantic world between 1600 and 1800. The program addresses several questions, including: What distinguished imposture in this period from that which took place before and after in the West? How do imposters at this time differ from “aventuriers” or those who engage in masquerade, or from the temporary slippage of identities on stage? Is there a shift from group imposture in the seventeenth century (motivated primarily by religious intolerance) to individual imposture in the eighteenth century (encouraged by new financial and commercial possibilities)? Does institutional change, as much as political and cultural discourse, account for new and changing opportunities to counterfeit identity? Is the nature of imposture different in the colonies than in the metropole? And, finally, how might such a broad-based inquiry into imposture address scholarship on the nature of “identity” and “self” in the West?