It is not often one opens a monograph that is at once erudite in its theory, imaginative in its scope, and meticulous in its evidence. Rarer still are such works found in English that exclusively derive from non-English source material. Yet this is precisely what Céline Carayon has accomplished in her extraordinary new work. Across six fastidiously crafted chapters, Carayon demonstrates the central significance of gestural signing to the formation of early modern French-Indigenous relationships throughout the Americas and assimilates this entirely novel fact-pattern into a reappraised etiology of France’s unique imperial strategy. At the foundation of France’s successful intrusions into the Western Hemisphere, Carayon convincingly asserts, were genuinely intimate bonds between Frenchmen and Indigenous peoples based in “physicality and tactility” (416). Where these relationships broke down, they did so not because of misunderstandings but, rather, because previously friendly actors understood all...

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