Intersectionality as Emancipatory Archaeology

Part of: Society for Historical Archaeology 2017

Intersectionality emerged from Black feminist theory as a way to understand and challenge hegemonic power structures within society. At the foundation of this approach is an understanding that oppressive systems of power impact and interact with one another, forming a matrix of domination. There are two main goals for this session. The first is to highlight the ways in which archaeology can aid in the analysis of intersecting power relations as they emerge over extended periods of time. We also want to show how an intersectional archaeology can help inform contemporary strategies to dismantle historical systems of oppressive power relations, and contribute to social justice and equality.

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  • Documents (16)

  • Archaeology's Role in Changing a Generation of Youth: Exploring Education and Intersectionality (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Alexandra Jones.

    Archaeology in the Community (AITC) is an urban-based archaeology organization founded with the intent of providing science opportunities to marginalized youth who would have never been exposed to archaeology through their education system. This paper highlights how intersectional theory is used by AITC to expose and increase students’ knowledge of archaeology as a science. Intersectionality theory emphasizes the structural intersection of social categories and studies the concept of...

  • Behind the Scenes of Hollywood: The Intersectionality of Gender, Whiteness, and Reproductive Health (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jodi Barnes.

    In ongoing research at Hollywood Plantation, a 19th century rural plantation in southeastern Arkansas, intersectionality, with its roots in Black feminist theory, plays two roles. It is an analytical tool for uncovering intersecting power relations, such as gender, whiteness, and reproductive health, as they emerged in the late 19th century. As patent medicines were increasingly marketed to women, medicine bottles provide a lens into rural upper class white women’s healing practices and the ways...

  • Coal-fired Power: Household goods, Hegemony, and Social Justice at Appalachian Company Coal Mining Towns (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Zada L Komara.

    Hegemonic power structures in Appalachia solidified during industrialization and shape the region’s representation and economic strategies today.  Appalachia is a land of backward hillbillies in the public consciousness, alternately uplifted and oppressed by extractive industries. Popular perceptions privilege the coal industry’s ‘power over’ Appalachian people without confronting the dynamic interplay of many power structures.  Household goods from two Kentucky company coal towns illuminate the...

  • Colonial Stigma in ‘Post’-Colonial Archaeology (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Dawn M. Rutecki.

    Legacies of archaeological social complexity models continue to stigmatize living Native communities. Pervasive in discussions of pre-Contact peoples in the modern United States, these models rely on the Eurocentric foundations steeped in racism, sexism, and religious bigotry on which they were built during early colonization. Archaeological evidence provides the opportunity to interrogate how past peoples were and continue to be entangled with living communities, rather than to buttress myopic,...

  • Digging in Our Mothers’ Gardens: Unearthing Formations of Black Womanhood (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Ayana Flewellen.

    Alice Walker’s 1974 essay, "In Search of our Mothers’ Gardens," ask "just exactly who, and of what, we black American women are." In searching for her own mother’s personhood, Walker explores the garden as a space of self-making where formations of identity took root for black women who lived during the 19th and 20thcenturies. Through this lens the garden becomes a space where black women during the 19th and 20th centuries shaped an existence counter to what would later be institutionalized as...

  • The Embodiment of Identity: an Archaeological Perspective on Race and Self-Representation in18th -century Virginia (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only J. Hope Smith.

    Institutionalized slavery helped to create the concept of race in the American mind and forced people into new social categories based on superficial bodily characteristics. These new social categories resulted in the formation of identities that were continuously negotiated, reinforced or challenged through daily bodily practices of self-presentation that included ways of dress, adornment and physical action. Because slavery was defined on the body, an embodiment approach to plantation...

  • Empowering Social Justice And Equality By Making Minority Sites And Intersecting Power Dynamics Visible (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Suzanne Spencer-Wood.

    Feminist critical intersectional theory emancipates constructions of the past from the symbolic violence of minority group exclusion perpetrated by historical narratives and archaeologies focused on the dominant social group of elite white men. Social justice and equality are empowered by historical markers, districts, heritage trails, statues, conferences, and K-college lesson plans that bring to light historic sites, experiences, and voices of minorities and women who were lost to history....

  • An Intersectional Archaeology of Women's Reproductive Rights (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Tracy H. Jenkins.

    Black feminist activists working in reproductive rights have long pointed out that access to abortion must be part of a larger project that also addresses poverty, racism, and other vectors of oppression that impact on women's ability to exercise free choice over their reproduction.  Family planning decisions sit at the intersection of these power structures.  This is illustrated at an early 20th-century tenement in Easton, Maryland, where gender ideals, racial segregation, slumlord renting,...

  • Intersectionality, Strategic Essentialism, Third Spaces, and Charmed Circles: Using Dead Ladies’ Garbage to Explain Today’s America (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Megan E. Springate.

    Audre Lorde wrote, "There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives." And yet, certain identities and struggles are forefronted every day. In 1903, middle-class women founded Wiawaka Holiday House in New York’s Adirondacks for "working girls" to have an affordable vacation away from unhealthy factories and cities. Using strategic essentialism and Third Space, a 1920s assemblage from Wiawaka demonstrates the deeply dependent relationships among race,...

  • The "Most Cherished Dream": Analysis of Early 20th century Filipino Community Spaces and Identity in Annapolis, Maryland (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kathrina J. Aben.

    In the late 19th century, American territorial expansion policies in the Pacific created a foothold into Asia through Philippines. Consequently, territorialization of Philippines stimulated waves of immigration into the U.S. that formed Filipino communities.  This paper examines the intersection of space, politics, and identity through the formation of early 20th century Filipino community sites in Annapolis, Maryland.  Through Archaeology in Annapolis (AiA), a cultural investigation of Filipino...

  • No Longer "Playin’ the Lady": Examining Black Women’s Consumption at the Ransom and Sarah Williams Farmstead (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Nedra K. Lee.

    Archaeological studies of race and consumption have linked black consumer behavior to the negotiation of social and economic exclusion.  While these studies have highlighted blacks’ efforts to define themselves after slavery, they have overlooked black women and how they used consumer goods to aspire towards gendered notions of racial uplift and respectability.  This paper examines the Ransom and Sarah Williams Farmstead, a historic freedman’s site in Travis County, Texas, to describe the nature...

  • Power and the Production of an American Landscape (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Stefan F. Woehlke.

    Race, class, and gender have intersected throughout our nation's history. These systems of power shape the strategies and tactics available to people positioned differentially throughout society. This paper will use evidence from archaeological and landscape analyses in order to identify the ways in which these systems of power influenced the 19th century practices that produced the 20th century landscape of Orange County, Virginia. 

  • Preserving Heritage: The Challenge of Race and Class at the Pyrrhus Concer Homelot (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Allison J.M. McGovern.

    This paper discusses community outreach and archaeological investigations at the Pyrrhus Concer Homelot in Southampton, New York. Pyrrhus Concer was born to an enslaved mother during the Gradual Emancipation Era in New York State, and he is locally remembered as a freed slave, a whaleman, a philanthropist, and a respected community member. Despite local awareness and memorialization of Concer’s homelot, his home became the locus of a heated battle between local preservationists, planning board...

  • Reading between the Lines: Building the Historic Context for a Female Planter in mid-18th Century Piedmont Virginia (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Matthew Reeves. Elizabeth Chew.

    Records for females in 18th-century society are often scarce. Such is the case for our investigations into President James Madison’s Grandmother Frances Madison. Widowed in 1732, she ran the Montpelier plantation for the first thirty years of its existence. Using a combination of archaeological evidence, a scattering of court records, and information on her oldest son (James Madison, Sr.), we build a case for her intersection with paternalistic society and the mark she left on the destiny of the...

  • Searching for Proud Shoes: The Pauli Murray Project and the Place of Historical Archaeology within a Social Justice Organization (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Colleen Betti. Anna Agbe-Davies.

    The authors organized an excavation on the site of the Pauli Murray Family Home in 2016.  Murray was a fierce advocate for equal rights, especially on behalf of African Americans and women.  In her autobiographies she traces her refusal to follow the scripts available to "Negro" "women" in the early 20th century to her upbringing among extended family in Durham, North Carolina.  The session abstract urges contributors to consider how historical archaeology can inform contemporary strategies for...

  • Using Archaeology to Understand Strategies of Racial Uplift, Past, Present, and Future: A Case Study from Annapolis, Maryland (2017)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kathryn H Deeley.

    Following the end of Reconstruction, the leaders of the African American community strove to combat negative stereotypes presented by the White majority using various strategies of racial uplift designed to develop a positive Black identity. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, these strategies could be classified as strategies of inclusion, advocated by scholars such as Booker T. Washington and Nannie Helen Burroughs, and strategies of autonomy, described by W.E.B. Du Bois and Anna Julia...