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‘Authenticity, Repurposed’: Mason Jars, Archaeology, and Contemporary Narratives

Author(s): Kim Christensen

Year: 2015

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From the satirical website The Onion to the venerable New York Times newspaper, mason jars are receiving attention due to their current resurgence in popularity for food preparation, décor, and do-it-yourself projects. These contemporary examinations of the mason jar’s popularity tend to contrast the frivolity of today’s use with a singular utilitarian historical view. In this paper, I examine the varied discourses that they have been placed within historically and by archaeologists in order to complicate the static view promoted by contemporary discussions. I argue that while their use for food preservation may have indeed been a matter of survival in many cases, the promotion of mason jars by the late 19th/early 20th century domestic science movement and issues of gender, race, class, and rural/urban location add important texture to this seemingly bland and ubiquitous food container. In complicating their history by drawing attention to issues of inequality implicated in their historical use, I critique the notions of authenticity and nostalgia attached to mason jars in the present moment as continuing to overlook the same, ongoing issues of inequality.

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‘Authenticity, Repurposed’: Mason Jars, Archaeology, and Contemporary Narratives. Kim Christensen. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397520)


Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America