Migrants, Materials, and the South Texas Past

Author(s): Ruth Van Dyke

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "Archaeologies of Immigration and Refugee Resettlement" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

I direct a historical archaeological project in the Alsatian community of Castroville, Texas. Members of the local heritage society, who sponsor the project, are descendants of economic migrants brought from Alsace to Texas in the 1840s during the aftermath of Texas’ break from Mexico. Today, Castroville residents seek to revitalize and celebrate their Alsatian past. Our excavation of an Alsatian immigrant’s house has given the archaeologists a detailed material window into the town’s complicated 175-year history – a history that involves class differences, and Indigenous and Hispanic residents. Meanwhile, the heritage society has transformed the stone house into a stage on which to tell the story of valiant pioneer ancestors who prevailed despite the hardships of life on a savage frontier. Materials, with their abilities to evoke nostalgia, play a starring role in this drama. In this paper, I contemplate some issues raised by the project, including: How does self-identification with a European past fit into a contemporary Texas that seems hostile to today’s immigrants? What roles might materials’ particular valences play in creating different kinds of narratives about the past? Is there a way for us to deploy these particular archaeological materials in support of social justice?

Cite this Record

Migrants, Materials, and the South Texas Past. Ruth Van Dyke. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 450916)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -168.574; min lat: 7.014 ; max long: -54.844; max lat: 74.683 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 23257