Lines That Divide: Historical Archaeologies of Race, Class, and Gender. (Issues for Historical Archaeology).
In their origins these are two very different books, one a set of edited papers, the other a single individual's perspective on historical archaeology and its modern day context. Both volumes share a concern to understand and develop a theoretical framework for the archaeology of the modern world, the archaeology of the 16th to the 21st centuries. Both are essential texts for the historical archaeologist.
Lines that divide reads very much as a set of conference proceedings. Though the background to the preparation of the volume and the selection of contributed papers is not stated, the concerns of the 1987 meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology are used by the editors to introduce the `streams of change' in archaeological thinking in the late 1980s and 1990s -- directed here at issues of race, gender and class. At the 1987 meeting four general paradigms were thought by many to be inadequate: historical archaeology as a supplement to American history, scientific positivism preoccupied with pattern recognition, structuralist approaches and a vaguely populist concern with the American experience. In the ensuing decade or more, the editors have noted the shift `from scientific to more contextual epistemologies'; at the same time, the paradigms of the 1980s have continued to concern many archaeologists, especially within areas of Cultural Resource Management.
Lines that divide reflects this mix of approaches. A few of the contributions are firmly centred on what we might now term `hard science' studies in pattern recognition. Perry's very interesting reassessment and rejection of the `settler model' for the rise of the Zulu state in 19th-century South Africa is thus based on an analysis of 159 sites in Swaziland; concerns here include rank, size, logarithms and settlement hierarchies. Wall's paper on domesticity in 19th-century New York draws on similar scientific analyses, with distributions of tableware and stemware in three households set within chi-square tests of association corrected for continuity. This paper is also one of a number of studies within the volume as a whole which successfully draw on historical and other contextual data to extend our understanding of and the significance of the archaeological record. Other notable contextually focussed contributions include those by Fawcett & Lewelling on Native American homesteads in northern Utah, by Shackel & Larsen on early industrial Harper's Ferry, and by Nassaney & Abel on the cutlery industry in early 19th-century New England.
Archaeology and the modern world is Martin Hall's contribution to the same debate. This is an eminently readable and attractive publication, an archaeological study set within the context of contemporary politics, literature and ideas. It draws extensively on Hall's own experiences as Professor of Historical Archaeology in the University of Cape Town, living through the changes of the last two decades in South Africa. Martin Hall's study is lucid, totally engaging, and, although in part autobiographical, is modestly written.
Hall's exploration of the theoretical traditions in historical archaeology draws on his own experiences and knowledge of the colonial societies of South Africa and the Chesapeake region of Maryland and Virginia. In acknowledging the contributions made by earlier approaches to our understanding of material culture in the historic past, Hall looks closely at the perspectives of structuralism and critical materialism. Chapter 4, `Substantial Identities', is indeed written within the context of the latter, to show the inadequacy of a theoretical perspective which focuses on the materiality of performance and power. Chapter 5, `Hidden Voices', is at the core of Hall's own position. To understand the historical archaeology of the colonial past there must be the means of reading through the material record the reactions, voices and thoughts of the oppressed and
poor, the enslaved and the people `without history'. In exploring new theoretical approaches, Hall, like Charles Orser, draws principally on the ideas of Scott, Spivak and Bhabha -- the subjugated leave their own impress on the archaeological record.
Lines that divide and Archaeology and the modern world share a number of concerns. The first is neatly summed up in Hall's conclusion that `the study of the past is a unitary endeavour shared by many areas of study' -- many `disciplines' are arbitrary divisions, inventions of the 19th century. Hall's own study moves seamlessly from the material to the documented record, from the South American literature of the magical realist imagination to contemporary politics. Without exception the papers in Lines that divide entwine history and archaeology. The editors speak of archaeology as a `discipline', but a good number of the papers move through wider studies of the past that are both archaeological and historical in their approach, for instance James Delle in his study of slavery on Jamaica coffee plantations, and Terence Epperson on the panoptic qualities of Jefferson's Monticello. A second shared interest is the question of scale. Historical archaeology is concerned with the global context. At the same time our understanding of the past must be informed by an understanding of individual lives. Hall addresses these issues and at the same time moves success fully across the wide canvas of colonial power and oppression. A number of the papers in Lines that divide show a similar awareness. I particularly liked Jamieson's piece on Dona Luisa's two houses. Here the life of Dona Luisa was set within a wider archaeological and historical study, drawing on the detail of two excavations in rural and urban Ecuador, and on the more global context of Spanish colonialism.
Archaeology and the modern world and Lines that divide share a concern for issues of race, gender and class. Both Hall and a number of the contributors to the latter seize the chance to link such issues to the politics of the present. For Hall, the history and archaeology of Cape Town's District Six, razed to the ground for apartheid, and the destruction of the cultural heritage of Croatia and Bosnia are inseparable, a counter-culture of hatred and violence that underlies `the triumphalism of global dominance and a new economic order' (p. 190). Many of the contributions to Lines that divide share this concern for issues of today. Both Hall and Epperson discuss at length the contemporary implications for the admirers of Thomas Jefferson wrought by the DNA analysis of the descendants of Jefferson and his black slave Sally Hemmings. Epperson's paper goes further in linking the preservation of the `viewshed' of Monticello to contemporary planning issues in northern Virginia.
In northern Utah, the previous lack of archaeological study of Native American homesteads was seen as a form of archaeological genocide. Archaeologists studying a more distant or elaborate past, `while denying the existence of contemporary Native Americans', are committing genocide `far more effectively than the U.S. military was ever able to do' (p. 54). Fawcett & Lewelling's claim also highlights a lacuna in both volumes.
Although Martin Hall explores at length the subjugation of the native peoples of the Cape, it is somewhat disappointing that no similar study is attempted of the fate of the Native Americans of the Chesapeake. `Uprisings' and `massacres' by the Native American population of the 17th-century Chesapeake might be rephrased and re-evaluated in the context of colonial violence and invasion. Hall's discussion of ambiguities, violence, subalterns and third spaces necessitates a north American as well as a southern African context. The controversies and threats of racial tension and violence in the 1990s that accompanied white South African celebrations of colonial origins might be contrasted with the apparently uncontroversial and approaching celebrations for the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, Virginia. The editors of Lines that divide echoed earlier misgivings on the prominence given in historical archaeology studies to `the vaguely populist concern with the general theme of the American experience' (p. xi). The absence of a paper devoted to the archaeological deconstruction of the thinking that culminated in the concept of Manifest Destiny is the more to be regretted.
ROGER H. LEECH, Department of Archaeology, University of Southampton, Southampton SO17 1BJ, England. email@example.com
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|Author:||Leech, Roger H.|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2001|
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