Gender, Race, and Other Consequential Categories: Experiments in Intersectional Archaeology

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 82nd Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC (2017)

The notion of intersectionality—conceiving identity categories such as race, age, class, and gender as covalent and entangled—is neither new nor new to archaeology. Archaeologists have long been paying simultaneous attention to multiple vectors of identity. Yet intersectionality’s agenda seems radical, even as it becomes mainstreamed within scholarly and popular contemplations of power. Within archaeology, intersectionality joins a host of postmodern approaches to categorical plurality that treat structural identity categories as fluid and multivalent. More established approaches, such as hybridity, postcoloniality, feminism, and critical theory, are compelling but have their own limitations. Does intersectionality offer something different? Can archaeology offer anything to the study of intersectionality? Is any archaeology of violence, privilege, and embodied identity intersectional, regardless of context or intent? Or does intersectionality demand a politically disruptive agenda? Is it even appropriate to apply this framework outside of the black/feminist/capitalist contexts in which it originated? With these questions in mind, session papers will take a critical, experimental approach to intersectionality within a variety of archaeological contexts.

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  • Documents (11)

  • At the Intersection: Destabilizing White Creole Masculinity at the 18th-Century Little Bay Plantation, Montserrat, West Indies (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jessica Striebel MacLean.

    Guided by contemporary humoral theory, 18th-century Europeans believed climate and bodily humors to be mutually influential and correlated in their effect on human temperament, appearance, and behavior. Resettlement to a new climate was understood to create humoral imbalances fundamentally affecting an individual’s character and even physical appearance including skin color. Subject to the effects of tropical climate British settlers to the West Indies thus transformed were viewed as...

  • Entangled Identities on the American Frontier: Army Laundresses as Cultural Brokers at 19th Century Fort Davis, Texas (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Katrina Eichner.

    This paper focuses on the cultural slippage that occurs in frontier zones where competing worldviews create conditions for alternative, innovative, and layered performances of intersecting identities. As spaces of translation, frontiers are the ideal location to study entangled identities. Inhabitants of these queer landscapes constantly negotiate the multiple lived realities of often conflicting ideologies. I propose the use of third-space as a framework for understanding the fragmentation and...

  • Inequality in the Academy: An Intersectional Analysis of Young College Men in 19th Century Lexington, Virginia (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Erin Schwartz.

    What can intersectionality offer to a study of an all-male antebellum dormitory? While this approach has typically been used to identify and combat race- and gender-based discrimination, this paper argues that intersectional theory can also illuminate subtle class- and age-based inequalities among historic individuals of the same gender and race. Archaeological investigation of Graham Hall, a combined dormitory/classroom space/chapel located on the campus of Washington and Lee University in...

  • An Intersectional Archaeology of Colonial White Male Privilege? (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Christina Hodge.

    I suggest that it is worth pursuing an archaeology of white male privilege through the contextual study of white privileged males. Among many outcomes, this project can de-naturalize "maleness" and "whiteness" as nomothetic and unmarked—thereby advantaged—social categories and reveal systematized advantage/oppression. Historical gendering was a nuanced process. Masculinity had multiple practiced and experienced forms. They persisted even within a tightly controlled environment, such as colonial...

  • Intersectional Feminist Theory and Materializations of Diverse Plural, Fluid, Multivalent, Intersectional Gender Identities in the Historic Jewish Diaspora on Greater Boston’s Landscape (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Suzanne Spencer-Wood.

    Intersectional feminist theory was introduced in the 1980s as an African-American critique of structural feminist theories that universalized white middle-class women’s experiences of patriarchy. Language shifted from interactions to intersections of gender systems with an expanding set of social structures, from race to class, ethnicity, religion, etc. These intersections became the basis for research on plural, fluid and multivalent identities. Intersectional feminist theory focuses on gender...

  • An Intersectional Study of Authorship and Citation in American Antiquity, Latin American Antiquity, and Advances in Archaeological Practice (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Laura Heath-Stout.

    Over the last thirty years, archaeologists studying identity in the past have also examined archaeologists in the present. Feminist archaeologists of the 1990s examined gender inequities among archaeologists using a wide variety of metrics. Since NAGPRA passed in 1991, many have written about the roles of Native Americans and other people of color in archaeological research. Yet there are no studies of how sexism, racism, and heterosexism work together in our field. I will examine patterns of...

  • Intersectionality and Health Consumerism in Antebellum Virginia (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Lori Lee.

    This presentation explores intersectionality in the context of health consumerism in antebellum central Virginia. Health consumerism incorporates the modern sense of patients’ involvement in their own health care decisions and the degree of access enslaved African Americans had to resources that shaped their health and well-being experiences. To emphasize the multilayered nature of health and illness, this analysis engages Margaret Lock and Nancy Scheper-Hughes "three bodies model." The three...

  • "Irish Fever": How the Intersection of Ethnicity, Class, and Typhus Fever created an Epidemic of Prejudice in 19th-century NYC (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Meredith Linn.

    During the height of the Great Hunger in Ireland in the late 1840s, epidemic typhus fever infected thousands aboard emigrant ships destined for New York City. Suddenly, a disease that had long been known as "jail-fever" or "ship-fever" became the "Irish fever." It was no longer associated with a place, but with a people. This paper will explain why (for many Americans) the intersection between typhus fever and the bodies of rural Irish laborers created a new disease, one they used to naturalize...

  • Leaving the Blanks Unfilled: a case study in productive ambiguity from Early Bronze Age Lebanon (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Alison Damick.

    An oft-heard sentiment in prehistoric archaeology, particularly for contexts without traditionally visible indicators of gender (i.e., bodies or identifiable representations of bodies), is that "the evidence just isn’t there" to productively introduce intersectional gender research. This is partly due to the trend-sensitivity of archaeology, which often draws from other disciplines to supplement its own scope. Intersectionality is used in the same way, as archaeologists attempt to reframe their...

  • Resistance and Intersectionality in Maroon Archaeology (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Mary Elizabeth Ibarrola.

    We define Maroons by their overt resistance; theirs was one of the most extreme forms of anti-slavery opposition in the Americas and for many scholars is representative of the human desire to be free. However, defining Maroons by the act of marronage is isolating and limits attempts to study cultural continuities and ethnogenesis amongst the wider African Diaspora. This paper will look at the potential for, and advantages of, an intersectional maroon archaeology. Through the lens of marronage in...

  • Using a Sexualized Ritual Landscape to Ontographically Examine Hohokam Gender Stereotypes (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Lewis Borck. Leslie Aragon.

    Between approximately A.D. 800—1450, politically oriented religious movements flourished and withered throughout the Hohokam world of the Greater Southwest. The public architecture associated with these movements is some of the only remaining evidence that archaeologists have for their occurrence. While researchers have started to investigate how these movements were politically intertwined, in this paper we lay out an argument that their physical remains can also be used to ontographically...