Archaeologies of American Life

Colonization, enslavement, urbanization, immigration, industrialization, westward expansion, community—these are complicated and contested topics central to the history and identity of the United States. People on both ends of the political spectrum have used narratives about each for their own political purposes. This course examines how archaeological studies have expanded, further complicated, and/or critiqued the familiar narratives. We will focus upon what material culture and other traces of human activity have revealed about how “ordinary” people, especially those not well represented in written texts, experienced and contributed to larger historical processes. The course will be organized thematically, addressing the topics at the beginning of the course description. We will devote one to two weeks per topic, after a brief introduction to archaeology and its methods. Readings will draw mostly from the field of historical archaeology, but will be complemented by works in history and material culture studies. Class meetings will be seminar style, with opportunities to view and handle artifacts, and a field trip to a site in New York City, if possible. Assignments will include a research paper or project on a topic of your choice (digital projects are welcome), a presentation of your research project, and leading a class discussion. There are no prerequisites, and newcomers to archaeology are welcome. 3 credits. May satisfy the chronological requirement, depending on final project.