This essay is an inquiry into the cultural domestication of globally circulating objects and symbols before colonialism. It seeks to reveal the efficacy of cross-societal performances of similarity—a strategy of appeal that I call similitude—by demonstrating how the strategic uses of imported consumer goods and cultural symbols by the people of Mutsamudu in the Comoros Islands affected British relationships to Mutsamuduans. Islanders adopted the materiality and social discourses of English gentility and through these claimed a moral proximity to the English, which they in turn used to leverage appeals for material and military assistance. By exploring the case of Mutsamuduan strategies of Englishness, we can better appreciate how cultural appropriations in even seemingly marginal locales have historically affected global interrelations.


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pp. 113-138
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