Excavating reaction and regression: American conservatism in Material perspective

Part of: Society for Historical Archaeology 2018

Contributors to this session utilize archaeological theories and methodologies to explicate the current conservative ascendancy in American politics. The recent elections have highlighted the extent to which American conservatism is a historically variable but socially constituted formation. However, there is still a great deal of popular and scholarly confusion over its causes, consequences and whether this ascendancy represents something new or is simply a continuation of existing structural and political forces. Avoiding the popular moralizing dismissal of conservative support as stemming from ignorance, we instead focus on the role of material things and spaces in organizing this current historical moment. Papers can focus attention on political memorabilia, the role of consumer choices and commodities in conservative policy and subjectivity, the role of monuments and historical landscapes in constructive conservative heritage, and the material consequences of conservative policy and ideology to exacerbate inequalities along lines of race, ethnicity, class, and gender.

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  • Documents (8)

  • 21st Century Commemoration and the Landscapes of an Absent Past: Remembering with Places in Santa Rosa, CA (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Margaret Purser.

    Located in an overwhelmingly Democratic county, Santa Rosa's neighborhoods returned decidedly mixed results in the 2016 presidential race. Ensuing public discourse has invoked long-standing rhetoric about who "really belongs" in the community of immigrants, based on arrival time. But unlike Confederate monuments in the South, Santa Rosa’s historical narrative is less openly contested in its commemorative sites and monuments than it is essentially absent altogether. This historically silent...

  • Archaeological Perspectives on American White Supremacist Appropriations of Viking Heritage (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Craig N. Cipolla.

    This paper explores American conservatism using the lens of contemporary archaeology to rethink connections between the rise of the alt-right (white supremacy) and the appropriation and fabrication of Norse heritage in North America. Recently emphasized by white supremacist and Seattle murderer, Jeremy Christian’s use of the phrase "Hail Vinland," Viking imaginaries play an important role in certain white supremacist narratives. I approach these narratives as heterogeneous assemblages of people,...

  • An archeology of segregation after the unification of Methodism in Washington, D.C. (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Matthew Palus.

    Emory Church in Northwest Washington, D.C. hosts a Pan-African Methodist congregation, but historically Emory Church was aligned with Southern Methodism, and had a segregated White congregation until the beginning of the 1960s. Soon after the integration of the church, the last White pastor departed as did the remaining White members of the congregation, leaving the church to a small community of worshipers in 1968. Archeological mitigation undertaken in 2016 as part of the redevelopment of the...

  • In the World and Of the World: Separatism as U.S. American Political Practice (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Linda Ziegenbein.

    One of the populist responses to repressive US American policies and practices has been to separate from mainstream society and live intentionally in communities that enact egalitarian ideologies.  However, study of such communities reveals that the same prejudices that its members repudiated nevertheless guided their own formation and evolution.  This paper considers the development of religious and secular utopian communities in the United States focusing on the role the created and enacted...

  • The Landscapes of Modern Conservative Utopias in the United States: potentials for archaeological and spatial analysis (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Quentin P Lewis.

    This paper introduces the session, and as a case study, explores utopias and utopian plans inspired by conservative thinking and principles as examples of spatial play and landscape experimentation. The growth of the internet has allowed for the proliferation of like-minded communities as well as the broadcasting of political ideologies and proposals. During the 2000s, anti-government enthusiasm proliferated into a number of proposals for separatist communities within the United States, founded...

  • The Materiality of Affluence and Taste in Trump Tower (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Paul R. Mullins. Timo Ylimaunu.

    This paper examines Donald Trump’s New York City apartment as a populist performance of affluence that simultaneously justifies ostentatious shows of wealth and defends idiosyncratic individual taste. Rather than reduce the grandiose penthouse simply to a transgression of "good taste," this paper examines a distinctive notion of material wealth that embraces pretentious and idiosyncratic expressions of style and affluence. In a conservative world that has often been characterized by stylistic...

  • A Second Life for the Alt-Right: Uses of Conservative Material Culture in Online Spaces (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Edward Gonzalez-Tennant.

    The use of social media as an organizing space for the alt-right has received considerable attention since the election of Donald Trump. The alt-right refers to those loosely-affiliated groups that share a far-right ideology intersecting white nationalism. This paper examines how these groups use other forms of new media. The alt-right has long used online worlds such as Second Life to promote their nationalist ideology. Employing a netnographic approach, the author explores the continued rise...

  • "This law is no good": Excavating the Appeal of Right-Wing Populism in Rural New York (2018)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Hadley F. Kruczek-Aaron.

    Polls conducted by Reuters-Ipsos after the 2016 election revealed that 75% of American voters wanted "a strong leader to take the country back from the rich and powerful," and 68% agreed that "traditional parties and politicians don’t care about people like [them]." A brand of right-wing populism emerged to speak to these concerns, and ultimately it helped deliver Trump to power. In this paper, I explore the roots of the appeal of this political movement in one rural region that voted...