The Power of Plurality: Encounters, Emergence, and Boundary-Making in the Nineteenth-Century Industrial Far West

Lecture | April 17 | 12-1 p.m. | 101 2251 College (Archaeological Research Facility)

 David Hyde, Department of Anthropology

 Archaeological Research Facility

Archaeological studies of nineteenth-century industrial sites have historically focused on a narrow set of questions surrounding labor exploitation, management strategies, technological development, and laborer resistance. This relatively narrow scope of questions and top-down framing has served to reify the assumed power of historical capitalists and strip laborers of their agency, power, and creativity. The work presented here attempts to address these issues by situating industrial sites in the post-Gold Rush American West as dynamic, pluralistic spaces of encounter, negotiation, entanglement, and emergence- sites of creativity and community building (as much as control and exploitation) that re-configured boundaries of difference along multiple axes in important and lasting ways. As a case study, this work examines material culture and historic data from the nineteenth-century Samuel Adams lime kiln industrial complex on the northern Santa Cruz Coast of California. By examining materials associated with managerial, manual, and domestic labor, I explore the ways in which labor groups engaged with a range of materials to build novel and strategic connections, relations, and meanings within the strictures of industrial life. In doing this I hope to challenge simplistic resistance/compliance binaries and linear models of culture change and instead argue for a recognition of material ambiguity, multiplicity, fluidity, and emergence as tactics towards making a life in the early Industrial Far West.