Journal of Social Archaeology 2002; 2; 109
Christopher N. Matthews, Mark Leone and Kurt A. Jordan
CHRISTOPHER N. MATTHEWS
Department of Anthropology and Sociology, Hofstra University
MARK P. LEONE
Department of Anthropology University of Maryland College Park
KURT A. JORDAN
Department of Anthropology Columbia University
The application of Marxist theory in American historical archaeology has expanded greatly over the past 20 years. More than just a theor¬etical tool, the rise of Marxism reflects an emerging consciousness within historical archaeology that its subject matter is capitalism, an interest obviously shared with Marx himself. We propose, however, that historical archaeology has proceeded to study the emergence of the modern culture of capitalism without engaging Marx’s critique of the political economy of cultural production in any direct way. Instead, much of historical archaeology reifies past cultural formations in place of maintaining a focus on the dialectical social processes through which those formations emerged. We illustrate how a Marxist approach to cultural production improves the foundational historical archaeologies of the colonial American state and African-American ethnogenesis and is the basis for archaeologically-based critiques of dominant American society.
African America • archaeology • critical archaeology • critique • ethnogenesis • historical • hoodoo • lifeworld • Marxism • Maryland • state
Marxism emerged in American archaeology in response to the mostly athe-oretical products of archaeology before the 1960s. During that revolution¬ary decade, archaeologists were challenged to make more meaningful and sound conclusions about their data through the development and appli¬cation of more elaborate theory. It was argued that theory could advance just so’ archaeological stories by making archaeologists elucidate the logical intellectual processes used to interpret their data. Despite the volatility of the 1960s, the majority of American archaeologists crafted approaches that emphasized ecological factors and cultural adaptation at the expense of social dialectics and conflict. These approaches typically employed evolution and systems theory. Evolution provided a long-term understanding of the motivating forces in the past: as populations grew and environments changed, cultures adapted. Systems theory provided a means to tie the various parts of archaeological cultures together: artifacts, features and sites made sense as parts of a whole. These conclusions appeared logical, as were the intellectual and scientific processes used to discover them. For some, however, neither theory was satisfactory in light of the con¬flicting cultural forces which occupied the public imagination of the time.
Considering the social contradictions regarding race, gender and class, the violence which erupted in the United States associated with the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War and its protest, and the increased scrutiny of academic claims to objectivity, the models of cultural and social change found in evolution and systems theory seemed less accurate depic¬tions of society than hoped-for ideals of social harmony. For some archae¬ologists Marxism provided a more realistic model of culture and social change. Rather than seeing an orderly and structured whole, Marx saw society as an amalgamation of discontinuous interests, often in conflict, forged and reproduced as an entity through struggle and domination. Additionally, instead of seeing social change as adaptation to external forces, Marx asserted that change resulted from internal and historical
contradictions that influenced the actions of interested agents, guiding them to seek the satisfaction of their own needs regardless, and often at the expense, of others.
We feel this approach has great merit, and, especially as historical archae¬ology has in the last decade embraced a more reflexive and theoretically sophisticated stance, it deserves to be reviewed. It is our goal to show that Marxism offers a useful and relevant approach to the social formations considered in historical archaeology. We strongly believe that the Marxist insistence on political economy as opposed to culture, and social produc¬tion as opposed to identity allows new insights and trains the focus of archaeological research on those aspects of past material conditions and social action most relevant to the construction of the modern world.
In this paper we offer a Marxist re-consideration of the two main cul¬tural transitions that have framed research in American historical archae¬ology over the past quarter century: (1) the transition from folk/medieval to modern/Georgian culture most famously formulated by Deetz (1977) and since widely adopted by others; and (2) the genesis of African-Ameri¬can culture, a research topic that more than any other has made American historical archaeology significant to related disciplines and publics outside the academy. Our approach to these topics is Marxist because we focus on how these cultural changes illuminate the struggles regarding the processes of social and cultural reproduction within given political economic con¬ditions. The focus in our reconsiderations is thus not on what cultural expressions might allow us to define the material record, but on how the material record is evidence of a transformation in the ways culture was expressed.
CULTURE AND MATERIAL CONDITIONS
A Marxist approach moves beyond the reconstruction of past material conditions to extract from these notions of consciousness that were relevant to the sorts of social life that produced the archaeological record. True to Marx, we do not support an understanding that puts the base before the superstructure, but rather an interpretation that draws a great deal from the conviction that consciousness derives from the structural order of produc¬tion in a very broad sense. Indeed, Marxism rejected the idealism of Hegel and others who saw the determining forces of self and society to be ideas, symbols and abstractions which superseded the events of everyday life and provided coherent meaning for action. For Marx, these abstractions obscured the real forces, activities and contradictions that formed and limited the capacity for social action. At the same time, Marxism distances itself from other forms of materialism, such as the ‘cultural materialism’ of
Harris (1979), because the latter accepted an unreasonable distinction between a determining base and an epiphenomenal superstructure (Fried¬man, 1974; Roseberry, 1989). The problem with this sort of materialism is, as Roseberry (1989: 26) wrote, ‘not that it is too materialist but that it is not materialist enough’. Rather, culture, consciousness, social relations and ideas, when considered as media and guides for social activity, are as mate¬rially relevant as any environmental or biological forces. In order to be introduced into the social process and reproduced, in fact, ideas must be materialized in speech, activity, printing, the creation and use of material culture, or the engineering of landscapes.
Understood materially, culture is a major factor in the historical con¬ditions which affect and determine action. Marxists agree with many of their critics that cultural knowledge acts as an ordering principle that allows individuals to interpret and understand reality. Yet, since Marxists argue that culture is connected and responsive to action, a Marxian conception of culture is much more fluid and yielding than most traditional anthropologi¬cal formulations. How we know the world is determined neither by our material conditions nor our conception of those conditions, but through the dialectical social process of our engagement with the world, both materially and intellectually. In any given situation, therefore, cultural knowledge is as subject to change by action as action is informed and determined by our preconceptions. Furthermore, this concatenation of culture and action is a ‘constant process’ (Roseberry, 1989: 43) and truly the subject matter of social inquiry.
This point is why Marxists typically relate culture and power. Recog¬nizing culture as a form of social production (rather than a completed product or ‘text’) allows for questions about the social relations which are being created, contested and naturalized in the cultural process, and how these relations are employed uncritically in the interpretation of social action rather than being the subject of social action and analysis. We concur with Roseberry that ‘if culture is a text, it is not everyone’s text. Beyond the obvious fact that it means different things to different people or different sorts of people, we must ask who is (or are) doing the writing? Or, to break with the metaphor, who is doing the acting, the creating of the cultural forms we interpret?’ (1989: 24).
In this paper we consider these questions in the settings of two dramatic past cultural transformations with clear repercussions in the present. In the transition from folk/medieval to modern/Georgian culture we re-examine previous archaeological work (Leone, 1995; Leone and Hurry, 1998; Miller, 1988, 1994) to explore the process of state inscription in the production of urban landscapes in colonial Maryland. With this example we demonstrate that this transition represented a fundamental change in relations of domi¬nance, the centrality of state-system activities to this transition, and how state-system manipulations and misrepresentations of space produced,reproduced and continue to reproduce a hegemonic state-idea. To consider the archaeology of African-American ethnogenesis we explore the theme of domination and resistance, a fundamental aspect of social power which has found abundant elaboration in historical archaeology (e.g., Beaudry et al., 1991; Leone, 1984; Orser, 1996; Paynter and McGuire, 1991). Here we seek to better theorize resistance by elucidating how a critique of dominant culture was an embedded aspect of the way enslaved African Americans articulated alternative social formations to those of their oppressors. Finally, we explore how a Marxist critical theory is useful and relevant to understanding why these main themes in American historical archaeology have emerged as foundational issues in the discipline. In particular, we offer a reflection on the relationship between contemporary African-American political consciousness and our practice of African-American archaeology in Annapolis, Maryland, to show how the dialogue which surrounds African-American archaeology (and is tied to the power that has fractured American society along the lines of race) might be acknowledged, under¬stood and critiqued in archaeological practice.
■ AN ARCHAEOLOGY OF STATE INSCRIPTION
Although prehistoric archaeologists have spent a great deal of energy investigating the origins, organization and development of the state, it is rarely a focus of inquiry in historical archaeology. This is despite the fact that the consolidation of the modern state in Europe and its export across the globe could easily be ranked as one of the major ‘haunts’ (Orser, 1996) of the modern era, along with more-studied factors such as capitalism and colonialism. As with capitalism (Wolf, 1982), the worldwide emergence of states was not a result of the export of a tidy, finished state module to peripheral areas by Europeans. The European state itself has a complex history that required much internal reorganization and experiment both at home and abroad (e.g., Abrams, 1988; Anderson, 1983; Corrigan and Sayer, 1985; Hechter, 1975; Skocpol, 1979; Stolar, 1995).
In general, the study of the state by historical archaeologists suffers for two reasons. First, the state is often viewed solely as an extension of the class system. It is believed that since the state is created and manipulated by the dominant class, that the class system explains the state and there is no need to study the state separately. Second, the very pervasiveness of the state in our own societies inhibits its study. The state seems too big, ungraspable. It is deeply entangled in almost every aspect of our daily lives, from the numbers on our houses and the codes that govern how they are built to the layout of our towns and cities, from the health and safety rules in our work¬places to the currency that appears to sustain us and the licenses that seem to prove our identities. This penetration of the state into our daily lives makes it difficult to imagine times and places where this was not the case.
Clearly both preconceptions need to be thoroughly re-examined. As Skocpol (1979: 28) reminded us, Marx never claimed that states simply were creations of the dominant class. The state, although closely related to the class system, is at least potentially autonomous from it; the connections between the class system and the state have to be investigated empirically, not prejudged. The second misperception - that of the ‘naturalness’ of the modern state - is more difficult to correct. Abrams (1988) believed that the conflation of two separate phenomena in the phrase ‘the state’ is part of the problem. One aspect is the ‘state-system’, the institutions and offices that exist in a ‘naive empirical sense’ (Abrams, 1988: 71), in other words the ‘state’ that can be looked up in a government telephone book and the ‘state’ that we practically experience every day. The other is the ‘state-idea’, a tradition culturally inscribed into everyday consciousness by dominant forces so that the state-system is viewed as ‘an integrated expression of common interest cleanly dissociated from all sectional interests’ (Abrams, 1988: 76). The inscription of the state-idea produces a contradiction because it attributes ‘unity morality, and independence to the disunited, amoral and dependent workings of the practice of government’ (Abrams, 1988: 81).
A fundamental task for historical archaeologists is to trace the origins of the modern state, to penetrate its murky history in terms of the appropria¬tion of vast amounts of labor for the state-system and the genesis and repro¬duction of the selective tradition of the state-idea. Both aspects are fundamentally cultural and fundamentally about power. To illustrate this point, we re-examine the ‘medieval-to-Georgian transition’ (Deetz, 1977; more properly the ‘post-medieval-to-Georgian transition’, per Johnson, 1996) in Maryland.
Numerous studies (e.g., Deetz, 1977; Glassie, 1975; Yentsch, 1991) have identified a dramatic transformation in Anglo-American material culture around the beginning of the eighteenth century involving a switch from naturalistic, communal forms (such as shared eating trenchers and asym¬metrical, accretional house construction) to mechanical, individualized forms (such as personal place settings and precisely symmetrical architec¬ture). This transformation was also a transition from many regional ‘folk’ cultures to one encompassing ‘popular’ culture. The hallmark of folk culture is its local character: decisions, such as those about building and adding on to houses, are made on the basis of knowledge rooted in local conditions. Initially the spatial isolation of Britain’s North American colonies (both from the mother country and from each other) generated and perpetuated localism. Then, around the beginning of the eighteenth century, the reintegration of British and colonial cultures in the new Georgian order ended this ‘folk’ period.
The transition from many ‘folk’ cultures to one ‘modern’ culture was far from a neutral change in mindset. Georgian forms were derived from an inscribed logic that ignored and denigrated local conditions. Symmetry, order and imposed rules of behavior were made more important than local terrain, available materials or local habits; variable folk forms and behaviors were ousted and replaced by standardized abstract practices. It is striking that this cultural transformation occurred at the same time as a renewed British interest in regulating and supervising affairs in the colonies at the end of the seventeenth century (Webb, 1979, 1984, 1995). We thus argue that Georgian cultural formulations were an exercise in the logic of empire, and that Georgian culture was introduced and naturalized by the colonial state. Examination of the role of the colonial state in the post-medieval-to-Georgian transition provides further evidence that this transition was funda¬mentally about the institutionalization of dominance and class relations.
Evidence from the well-studied example of colonial Maryland (e.g. Leone, 1995; Leone and Hurry, 1998; Miller, 1988, 1994) provides a con¬crete archaeological illustration of how the new imperial state-system played a fundamental role in the inscription of a new cultural logic and a new aggressive and expansionary state-idea. From 1660 to 1710, two sepa¬rate systems operated in Maryland: the essentially medieval proprietary regime of the Catholic Calvert family from 1660 to 1689, and a Georgian Royal administration from 1692 to 1710. The study of these systems shows that each operated effectively through the transformation of common practical consciousness (Gramsci, 1971; Roseberry, 1989) by manipulating space in ways that made it necessary for people to experience Georgian forms. The creation of Georgian spaces also served as the groundwork for the inscription of state-ideas upon people already exposed to (if not dominated by) Georgian forms during their everyday experience. However, the two examples contrast in that only the Royal administration determined that the most effective means to inscribe a state-idea upon the populace was in the misrepresentation of the power and function of the state-system through the manipulation of space.
A first, and largely unsuccessful, effort to inscribe the proprietary state was the town plan designed for Maryland’s capital, St Mary’s City, around 1666. Identified through the archaeological research of Henry Miller (1988; see also Leone and Hurry, 1998), the baroque plan at St Mary’s City created virtually inescapable vistas of authority. The plan (Figure 1) consisted of two roughly equivalent triangles meeting at a central point. Important buildings - including a state house, prison, a Jesuit chapel and what docu¬ments indicate was possibly a school run by the Jesuits - were constructed at the far corners of the triangles during the 1660s and 1670s. The St Mary’s City plan can be considered a bald attempt to inscribe a theoretical under¬standing of the proprietary state. In the ‘state’ triangle, there was a direct association between legal authority - the state house, which housed both the assembly and the courts - and repression, starkly visible in the form of the prison. Although the ‘church’ triangle was distinct from the ‘state’ tri¬angle, there is no doubt that the Calverts intended it to demonstrate the fundamental importance of Catholicism to the proprietary colony, despite the fact that Catholics could not even hold office in Britain and over 75% of Maryland’s population was Protestant.
The St Mary’s City example illustrates that state-sponsored inscription attempts do not always work. Since the state-idea behind the plan was entirely overt, the symbolism of the St Mary’s City plan was representative of the state-system and could be readily considered and accepted, rejected or ignored by residents and visitors. The high visual profile of the massive brick chapel and brick prison at St Mary’s City must have challenged Protestant malcontents, a difficult strategy where Protestants were in the majority. This inscription of highly charged local symbols in all likelihood exacerbated rather than mollified political tensions within the colony.
Figure 1 Plan of St Mary’s City, Maryland, c. 1666
However, some of the secondary aspects of the St Mary’s City plan pro¬duced more subtle and enduring effects on the colonial consciousness by manipulating spaces that were used every day. The archaeology of the ‘Country’s House’ inn site reveals the gradual transformation of property boundaries in St Mary’s City (Miller, 1994). In the 1630s and 1640s fence lines at the Country’s House followed the natural topography paralleling a nearby riverbank and ravine. Then in 1666 an official survey (likely a part of the town plan) formally set the plot’s boundaries and imposed a rectan¬gular form. Documents show that the surveyor tied his measurements to locally-named landmarks such as the ‘Highway’ and a nearby office. In 1678 the property was re-surveyed and its shape was reduced from a long rec¬tangle to a square. This time, the surveyor’s notes contained no references to local landmarks; the property is described entirely in terms of compass bearings and measured distances. Archaeology demonstrates that in both instances the owners of the Country’s House dutifully built fences that con¬formed to the redefinition of their property.
The change in the surveyors’ conceptualization of the land was part and parcel of the emerging Georgian logic. The Georgian order promoted the replacement of local knowledge with exclusive, supra-local forms in sur¬veying and many other domains: reading a map instead of ‘knowing your way around’, marking time by a clock instead of by the sun, reading written music instead of playing ‘by ear’, designing and imposing a baroque town plan rather than following natural contours. These rationalizations created knowledge that was produced and controlled by ‘experts’ instead of by common people, and perfectly adequate local sets of knowledge were superseded by those that required outside assistance. The Georgian order led to the domination of those who did not have the new forms of know¬ledge by those who did. In this manner the symmetry, order and abstract rationality of the new fences which followed the town plan hemmed in resi¬dents and visitors and made state-imposed forms more important than the contours of the landscape in defining daily movement and practice. The state brought Georgian forms to ordinary people and made them inescapable ‘natural’ parts of their daily lives, laying the groundwork for their later expanded use.
In 1692, proprietary rule in Maryland was replaced by Royal adminis¬tration. Francis Nicholson, the second Royal governor, instituted a sweep¬ing set of reforms that rationalized and centralized the administration of the colony and tied it more securely to the British empire through the appli¬cation of exclusive forms of knowledge (Jordan, 1966). The state-system that the Royal governors created in Maryland was definitely a Georgian one - based on rational precedent, codified law and centered around the pos¬sessive individual (MacPherson, 1962). It clearly has ties to the idea of a unified, non-sectarian state expressing the ‘general will’, the same state-idea that underlies many modern state-systems, including that of the USA. The introduction of Georgian landscapes and practices in the proprietary period laid the groundwork for the successful introduction of such a legitimating ideology.
The Royal administration also created an intentional landscape that attempted to inscribe its own state-idea. This was initiated by moving the provincial capital from St Mary’s City to Anne Arundel Town on the Severn River, which was re-christened Annapolis. Nicholson designed a baroque town plan for the new capital that appears to be quite different from that of St Mary’s City (Leone, 1995; Leone and Hurry, 1998; Reps, 1972). The three main elements in Nicholson’s plan (Figure 2) were State Circle, 520 feet across and on the highest knoll in the town; Church Circle, a smaller circle on the second highest point; and Bloomsbury Square, an intended cosmopolitan residential district that was never built. Major thoroughfares radiated from the two circles, a brick state house and school were built in State Circle and an Anglican church was constructed in Church Circle.
Figure 2 Plan of Annapolis, Maryland, present day
The plan was clearly an attempt to associate state and church visually; however, this time the state was unquestionably at the apex of the spatial hierarchy. The area of State Circle is 2.25 times as large as that of Church Circle, and the State House occupies the most prominent hill in the city. The schoolhouse was placed within State Circle, rather than near the church as in St Mary’s City, providing unambiguous evidence for Nicholson’s con¬ception of the expanding role of the state. However, in contrast to St Mary’s City, the prison was located off Church Circle in a visually insignificant position (Reps, 1972: Figure 81). Nicholson also mandated that tradesmen, such as bakers, brewers, tanners and dyers, place their shops on the out¬skirts of town, ‘a sufficient distance from the said town as may not be annoy¬ance thereto’ (Reps, 1972: 132). Through state control over the use of space, there was a distinct ‘cleaning-up’ of the center of town around the State House and church. This cleaning-up had the effect of misrepresenting the state-system and in the same stroke making it appear natural and timeless. Viewing and moving through the center of Annapolis, one’s conception of the state-system could only be in the abstract, formed by a vision of grand public buildings untainted by the more unpleasant reality of a highly visible prison and not acknowledging the ebb and flow of economic enterprise, the state-system’s fundamental underpinning.
The Nicholson plan thus misrepresented - and continues to misrepresent - social reality. Unlike the St Mary’s City plan, the Annapolis plan con¬tributed to its own legitimacy by making the physical experience of being in Annapolis the experience of the centrality of the state. It achieves this effect by making that experience timeless and neutral and by convincing a person that s/he is not subject to the everyday expressions of state power. The empty rationality of the depiction of the state-idea in Annapolis lulls any fear of or mistrust in the state, instead providing a foundation for the state’s active expansion.
Through the process of imposing a centralized, rational system of administration and cultural domination, the state-systems in Maryland encouraged the growth of the Georgian ‘mindset’ by making people engage in Georgian practices in Georgian settings. State-sponsored manipulation of space and behavior thus played an important role both in the transform¬ation of ‘post-medieval’ to ‘Georgian’ culture and in laying the groundwork for the expansion of modern state forms. The most effective of these manipulations of space was the Annapolis plan that provided and continues to provide a misleading everyday experience of the state.
RESISTANCE AND AFRICAN-AMERICAN ETHNOGENESIS
We turn now from a consideration of the state-system forces that shaped the dominant culture in early America to a consideration of those most dominated by that system and culture: enslaved African Americans. We show here how a Marxist perspective may contribute to the current under¬standing of African-American resistance through the development of a new interpretation of several distinctly African-American features of the
archaeological record that acted as a critique of dominant culture. While the systems produced by colonial states in America structured life increasingly from an abstract, non-local perspective, those subject to those systems and sets of cultural knowledge found in their material conditions contradictions and ruptures in the system’s order that enabled resistance and critique. We argue here that the genesis of African America results from a series of these ruptures that were created as the dominant culture incompletely organized the structures of everyday life and oppression.
To organize this discussion we employ the notion of ‘separations’ pro¬posed by Barnett and Silverman (1979). Dominant cultures order lives by explaining how and why experience might by separated into distinct phenomenal categories. The purpose of anthropology, Barnett and Silver-man argued, is to identify these categories and show how the actions that result from their organization produce and reproduce culture and domi¬nation. In this sense, domination is reproduced by action which is itself informed by and responsive to the cultural categorization of the elite, while resistance may be understood to be action which, although acknowledging the dominant order, is informed by and responsive to a critical and poten¬tially alternative cultural formation. In this consideration of African-American resistance the point is to demonstrate how resistance was a critique of the dominant order which dialectically bred new ways of living in America.
Deetz (1994) indicated that the archaeological record of late seven¬teenth-century Virginia plantations shows an increase in locally-made colonoware vessels attributed to African-American potters correlating with a reduction in the average number of rooms per house. The smaller houses are said to reflect a resolution of social tensions between masters and their white indentured servants by the construction of separate houses for ser¬vants, thereby reducing overall house size. However, an additional aspect of late seventeenth-century Chesapeake society (Jordan, 1979; Morgan, 1975) was the rise to prominence of the first sizable generation of native-born, white property-owning men. Rather than accumulating capital through servitude, these men inherited it, allowing them to expand into new investments. So, even as white labor challenged the consolidation of an elite class, masters subverted this challenge through the replacement of white labor with more expensive enslaved Africans. This strategy not only sub¬ordinated labor but complicated the social order by creating a material dis¬tinction defined simultaneously by race and class. Deetz’s finding of a greater number of colonoware vessels during this period is evidence of this transformation since, within the new slave-based system of production, these vessels identify the emergence of a racially-framed social distinction which segregated blacks and whites both physically and categorically (compare Epperson, 1990, forthcoming).
The new racialized culture demonstrates a reconstruction of the
dominant cultural order in response to a rupture in the system, but this was only the first of a series of ruptures relevant to the ethnogenesis of African America. Another stage is represented by the vessel forms of the colonoware pots recovered from Virginia. Africans in Virginia were sub¬jected to white domination longer and under different conditions than in other southern colonies, and Virginia’s colonoware vessels were more often made in shapes resembling European forms than elsewhere. The presence or absence of these ‘copy’ vessels is usually attributed to the level of inter¬action between whites and blacks or Native Americans (Deetz, 1994; Ferguson, 1992), with the greater number of ‘copy’ vessels occurring in areas of more intensive contact. Such a calculus, however, reduces the com¬plexities of social interaction to a factor of relative acquaintance. Such an approach fails to consider that the production of these vessels may have not been the result of market demands or cultural familiarity, but part of a con¬tentious cultural process of resistance. Rather than just reproducing famil¬iar forms, we suggest that Africans in Virginia were attempting to assert a position within society that challenged the racial foundations of slavery. It was certainly clear to enslaved Africans that Europeans were a different sort of people based both on their superior economic, political and social positions and their different cultural habits. To be more like them, such as through the use of similar vessels, may have been a way to capture some of what Europeans were and close the gap that not only differentiated Africans from Europeans but subordinated them as well. These vessels were thus used by Africans to critique the structures of domination and challenge the cultural separation of blacks from white society. From the dominant perspective, however, this practice identified another rupture within the system and produced a new reaction that further removed blacks from whites, through the invention of the slave quarter and the insti-tutionalization of racism this represented and supported.1
We thus turn to consider the archaeology of racism (compare Babson, 1990) understood through the lens of cultural hegemony. The Marxian notion of cultural hegemony articulated by Gramsci (1971) argued that inscribed meanings such as state-enforced social order or the naturalness of racial difference may be sustained even when such inscriptions are truly contradictory to lived experience. In this sense, a belief in dominant cultural ideals may outweigh and lead to a misinterpretation of actual material con¬ditions. Given this possibility for conflict between inscribed meanings and lived experience, it is also true that the structured order of domination is always positioned for change. The transition to a social order based on racism in the Chesapeake exemplifies this process. The new order, never¬theless, was no more stable than the one it replaced. The new emphasis on race simply required different positioning and thus opened new avenues for critique. Now a social foundation, racism became an interstice in the social system through which power could move from one group to another.
The archaeological implications of this social construction are found in the many examples that have been recently brought to light concerning some potentially subversive religious practices associated with enslaved African Americans and their descendants. At the heart of this research so far has been evidence of the ‘autonomy’ of African Americans, even given the oppressive social conditions in which they lived. At this point we feel there is the possibility for the incorporation of these data into a broader theoretical framework than the assertion of ‘limited autonomy’ allows. We identify these activities, artifacts and features of African-American his¬torical material culture as a critique of the dominant white cultural order.
Upton (1990) argued that early Virginia landscapes bear the marks of both white and black cultural orders, and he opposed these landscapes as articulated versus informal constructions of space. The white gentry, backed by the colonial state, created a landscape in which their ‘houses, churches, courthouses, and other public structures, as well as the roads and ways which linked them, were conceived as an articulated spatial network’ (Upton, 1990: 72). It seemed as if an order was cast over the whole of space that marked their domination. Nevertheless, Upton showed that the actual use of space by slaves reflected a separate power. Near to and inside their houses, around utilitarian plantation buildings and in the fields, woods and waterways space was under their control. These breaks in the articulated white landscape reflect the interstices created by racism; exploring the activities which occurred there allows us to explore the sources of differ¬ence and how these were used to critique the dominant order.
The current archaeological depiction of African-American cultural autonomy has pointed to artifacts representative of a world-view with ties to West Africa and a sort of spiritualism in which forces taken to be static by the dominant ideology were instead believed to be quite active in the construction of reality. Here we speak of the archaeological interpretations of marks on colonoware vessels, root cellars, beads, crystals, coins, bones, mirrors, cowrie shells, rings, gaming pieces, figas, reworked glass, stone and ceramic sherds, as well as other objects (Brown and Cooper, 1990; Emerson, 1999; Ferguson, 1992; Jones, 2000; Leone and Fry, 1999; Logan et al., 1992; McKee, 1992; Orser, 1994; Samford, 1996; Singleton, 1995; Stine et al., 1996; Wilkie, 1996, 1997; Yentsch, 1992; Young, 1997). Taken as a whole, these features comment on the notion of boundaries. For example, Ferguson (1992) suggested that incised marks on colonoware vessels reproduced a Bakongo cosmogram, and the fact that many of the vessels were found under water indicated the practice of ritually pushing these vessels across the boundary between land and water, which in Bakongo religion is inter¬preted to represent moving from the world of the living to the world of the dead. A similar example can be made of the interpretations made concern¬ing color. Stine et al. (1996) argued that blue beads were more commonly associated with African-American sites than others because of the specialsignificance of the color. Blue, as it represented the sky and, thus, heaven, was used by African Americans in different media such as house paint and decorative beads to ward off ghosts and evil spirits.
We highlight the evidence these examples provide of the piercing of boundaries. The actions undertaken were done in order to extend the control of living people into the realm of the dead. The interpretation of these efforts argues that these are examples demonstrative of the unique development of African-American culture as a creolized version of West African cultures in America. To date, however, there has been too little emphasis on the American context in favor of understanding these practices as continuations of West African traditions. Reconnecting these practices to the attempted destabilization of institutionalized racism by African Americans is important. We suggest that a Marxist perspective which argues that if these actions represent resistance, then they must be a critique of racial subordination, allows for an extension of this interpretation. The boundaries being crossed were constructed in African-American belief systems that spiritually animated physical features of the environment. On the one hand, then, these practices reflect a distinct cultural order. However, because these same physical features also acted, albeit in different ways, to organize and determine the dominant white cultural order, we should not overlook the social critique that was embedded within and shaped the form of the African-American alternative.
Land, water, color, coins, stones and bowls were mute commodities in the white, capitalist culture. Any enhanced meanings were, through a cultural separation of the material from the spiritual, condensed and lost. The meanings applied to these objects by African Americans, on the other hand, reflect more than their utilitarian and exchange values and, in their association with spiritualism, destabilized dominant meanings and chal¬lenged the legitimacy of the dominant order. Crossing spiritual boundaries by venturing into forests and waterways and animating supposedly static objects like earth, plants, water and sky did two things. First, it established a new idea that the difference resulting from racism was as much a creation of black as white action, in the sense that the creativity of Africans in America identified alternatives to dominant sensibilities. Having suffered in their earlier attempt to be like their masters, African Americans sought to be increasingly unlike them as a way to challenge the claims to univer¬sality embedded within white cultural foundations. Second, these activities, as they challenged the separations of the white cultural order, critiqued and undermined the forces which established and relied on those separations. We conclude this section with examples of this process.
Among others, McKee (1992) has shown that root cellars acted as ‘hidey holes’ in slave quarters where objects of special significance were stored or stolen goods hidden. These features were common in slave quarters across the American South, suggesting that they were a part of the African adaptation to slavery in North America. Clearly, root cellars pierce bound¬aries, and the structures of white domination, and, like the other examples given, can be seen as a critique of the dominant order through the practice of alternative activities. However, McKee related that one of the goals of a highly successful reform movement before the Civil War was to raise slave cabins off the ground. This obviously eliminated the possibility of using hidey holes and exemplifies the ongoing struggle for power between masters and slaves. Embedded within a reform movement that led to changes and improvements in the treatment of slaves including their housing was a reassertion of master domination which directed the changes that were made, often with the end of solving ancillary problems such as root cellars being hidey holes for pilfered and sacred goods.
Eliminating root cellars re-asserted the dominance of masters over slaves. Singleton (1995: 134) provides a comparable example, suggesting that a decline in the use of colonoware vessels in the beginning of the nine¬teenth century reflects changing African-American resistance strategies more so than assimilation. Perhaps, even more to the point, it reflects the ongoing power relations that framed the contexts of slavery in which resist¬ance was, as she suggested, shifted to aspects of dress and personal adorn¬ment. The possibility that slaveowners encouraged slaves’ use of European ceramics to assert their conformity to white domination is a question worth exploring as long as this action is understood to be part of the struggle for power in the contexts of slavery and racism.
■ THE PRACTICE OF A MARXIST HISTORICAL ARCHAEOLOGY
This article has thus far reviewed applications of Marxist analysis in two central problems in American historical archaeology. Here we wish to show that the problems discussed have been embraced in historical archaeology because they are relevant to defining the position of the discipline in the modern world. Archaeology, as a way of constructing the past in the present, is always entwined with current political contexts. Marxist critical theory seeks to cast light on the origins of these modern conditions, specific¬ally those conditions that surround the information being interpreted within the living, political context of its current use. Critical archaeology employs Marxist critical theory to examine the tie between present and past so that the politics of the research context are made visible in the routines of archaeological practice. This is not normal either in prehistoric archaeology or, far more particularly, in American historical archaeology.
Within historical archaeology, in addition to the examples presented here, there have been several attempts to elucidate past social practices that are early versions of practices today, which are themselves both invisible and operate to preserve class relations and the modern state-system. Orser’s work on tenancy (1988), Mullins’ work on the contradictions of African-American consumerism (1999), Purcer on marginal Western farmers (1999), Epperson on the foundations of North American racism (1990, forthcom¬ing), and Deetz’s famous, but not class-conscious, work on the origins of time and work discipline within the Georgian order (1977), all illustrate the beginnings of current repressive social practices.
The type of critical theory that invokes such archaeological studies was outlined by Lukacs (1971) who sought to justify the place of the historian in socialist society. As a Marxist, he saw class as a fixture of capitalism and the historian as the creator and sustainer of elements of the consciousness that would act to facilitate knowledge of allies among exploited but divided groups. He believed that such knowledge among members of the middle and working classes could produce an understanding that life could be different, and that this socially catalytic tie could occur if people saw life when, or before, it became fixed as it is now. Historical archaeology, for example, could show life before the modern state, before racism, before the five-day working week, before the clock and alarm bell, before the fork, napkin and manners arose as measures of civility. It could also show how these practices bred their own critiques which survive in the present.
In the hands of some scholars, ideas like those proposed by Lukacs pro¬duced powerful descriptions of what life could be like separated from the modern institutions which structure our lives. If we look at the work of the Leakey family and other researchers on human origins in the context of over a century and a half of the operation of Darwin’s theory of evolution, we can see a profound, popular reorientation of an answer to the eternal question: ‘Where do we come from?’ These discoveries have made estab¬lished Christianity uneasy and have dislodged the Bible as the sole and unquestioned answer. No American historical archaeological study yet is among this class, even though one could be. In fact, American historical archaeology is poised to choose knowledge of domination, slavery and emancipation as the domain which could be analogous to human origins. The field has not, however, picked the questions its scholarship will address. Will it be: ‘Is American society also African?’, ‘Does racism have to exist?’, Are class and poverty inevitable in modern capitalism?’, ‘Can American society be truly democratic?’ Even though the question has not yet been isolated, we are sure the discipline will choose from among these and answer by producing archaeological knowledge of what created African and other subaltern Americas.
To explain, we illuminate the place of current political relations in our own conception of archaeological cultures. Our use of critical theory, although firmly planted in the Marxist critique of capitalism, explicitly chooses to also advocate for greater participation in democratic institutions.
In this sense, we embrace the ideas of Habermas (1979, 1984) about reform through the understanding and preservation of lifeworlds’ which are at the edge of, or perhaps beyond, capitalism. This kind of critical theory takes a given relation and shows that it does not have to operate as assumed because alongside it exist other possibilities for living. As the struggle to resist domination spurred the developments that make up the history of the subaltern, critical archaeology optimistically seeks to identify archaeologies that may produce work that challenges the status quo through the investi¬gation of alternative histories and an engagement with the present where those alternatives are being put to use.
The example of Leone’s recent research on African-American Hoodoo is a powerful illustration of this kind of critical archaeology. Hoodoo, long understood to be a North American variant of Caribbean Voodoo and West African Vodoun, is a set of religious practices that combines things as metaphors and metonyms to manage the spirits of the dead. Hoodoo uses charms called mojos, hands or tobys to get spirits to heal specific illnesses, induce good luck, reverse bad luck and thereby control the future, as well as to punish those who have unacceptable intentions. Hoodoo’s meaning is revealed most completely in autobiographical narratives from the 1930s collected from former slaves throughout the country (e.g., Rawick, 1972, 1972-9). The narratives describe why charms were made, who made them and for what reason. The effects of curing, bringing luck, discovering the source of bad luck or disease and bringing ill on someone are all clearly available. The descriptions contain a world of mistresses, masters, wives, neighbors, husbands, children, disease and hardships; a distinct world ready for and filled with magical practices. Significantly, Hoodoo was neither bound by slavery nor properly a slave religion; rather, it is best understood as a lifeworld unconquered though shaped by plantation capitalism.
Hoodoo shows that African heritage survived in North American slavery, that European Christianity has an alternative, and demonstrates a way of thinking and acting that escaped white domination. Furthermore, in its survival, it consistently contributed to the contours of the dominant culture in America for its practitioners are frequently Christian themselves and thus introduced critiques and reforms (through intended actions or not) that mark the history of American Christianity.
Over the course of the 1990s sets of caches were excavated by Leone and his colleagues throughout Annapolis by members of the Archaeology in Annapolis project. These caches consisted of pins, crystals, ceramics, stones, coins and other objects buried in the ground near doors and in corners. They were identified as African American and to be Hoodoo artifacts. Hoodoo operated using material culture (Leone and Fry, 1999; Leone et al., forth¬coming). To make and use a charm, several items were combined and placed somewhere or on someone. Usually the combination included a metaphor for the problem to be dealt with, such as a bent pin or nail for an aching joint. Something was then added representing the person to be protected, cured, gifted or harmed, like a coin, a sock or piece of cloth. Finally grave¬yard earth, a fragment of glass or crystal or a piece of red flannel was added to control a spirit employed to deal with the hoped-for event. Because the spirit of a dead individual is believed to be captured and directed in this way, the process is sometimes called spirit management. The items representing the hoped-for event and the person to be affected are metaphors. The item directing the spirit, a more powerful representation, is a metonym because it is capable of either directing or containing the spirit.
In Annapolis, Hoodoo was unknown to the preservation community that sponsored Archaeology in Annapolis. Additionally, standard scholarship in Annapolis was unable to conceive of a lifeworld such as Hoodoo because the African-American community was believed to be too small and too urban, now or in the past. As is typical in any American community that had only a mild interest in its history and virtually no resources for engage¬ment in sustained historical scholarship, African Americans were thought to have no source of material to compose a history of their own. There were local heroes, folklore, oral histories and photographic potentials, but no celebrated, detailed historical presence that could support widespread historical discourse and consciousness. Perhaps, most significantly, there was no tie to Africa that was or could be empirically revealed.
Around 1990, as Archaeology in Annapolis began to investigate the archaeology of African Americans, a local African-American museum director asked us ‘whether there was anything left from Africa?’ In her pos¬ition, she was aware both of the lack of substantial local African-American history and of the potential for archaeology to identify that which was missing in the documentary record. Working together, she and a mostly white team of archaeologists recorded oral stories from neighbors, whose former houses we were excavating, that could be used as evidence in the interpretation of the past (Leone et al., 1995; Leone and Logan, 1997). This early collaboration was solidified by the archaeological discovery of sets of bundles used for spirit management in the work spaces of three homes in Annapolis (Jones, 2000: 56-60; Harmon and Neuwirth, 2000: 295-319; Logan et al., 1992: 120-22, 131). These materials were quickly identified by scholars who knew them to be the result of West African religious practices used by people of African descent. Thus, we were able to say that there was African-American history in Annapolis and a part of it was from Africa.
The tie to Marxist critical theory in this method of discovery is two-fold. The first is the identification of the origins of modern practices showing that people have a history that had never been acknowledged or verified. The second is the effort to show that modern exploitative relationships do not have to be the way they are because they, too, may have a history which can illuminate how they are arbitrary and can be undone. The second part of critical theory in our illustration builds on the discovery that a part of the history of Africa is in Annapolis. Since the archaeological record showed that Hoodoo was widely practiced from 1790 to 1920 we could demonstrate that below ordinary white visibility there was a set of prac¬tices that cured, divined and protected by fending off masters, helping to find lovers and the lost, and helping to treat the socially significant pains of arthritis, heart ache, oppression and hard luck. It was a faith from home and for relief.
We have also learned that this faith was and still is practiced by some Christians. Theosophus Smith (1994) argued that West African ideas of spirit management entered the Christianity practiced by some people of African descent and formed the characteristics attributed to Moses, Jesus and the saints. Smith showed that Moses, Jesus and the saints work as African spirits in that they are immediately available, always there to help and are so powerful that they can get God to do their will. They are the spirits who manage God. According to Smith, this way of understanding Christianity is derived from West Africa.
We wish to conclude by showing how this example of Hoodoo’s redis¬covery in Annapolis allows us to retain the basis of critical archaeology that demands that we seek to connect the past to the present by examining how people got to be in their condition now. Our archaeology discovered that Hoodoo in Annapolis was whole, widely practiced and present from 1790 to about 1920. African-American scholarship (e.g., Smith, 1994; Thompson, 1983) provided the idea that Hoodoo and Christianity were linked, a linkage also revealed throughout the narratives themselves by practitioners who were devout Christians (Rawick, 1972, 1972-79; Smith, 1994). But what happened to Hoodoo after 1920? Where did it go? Did this element of African heritage disappear? Was this part of Africa lost? The answer is no. During Black History Month 2000, Leone and his colleagues announced the archaeological discovery of a West African-derived cosmogram in one Annapolis house. Catherine Yronwode called from northern California, having learned of our discovery in the mass media, to tell us about her firm that produced and sold lucky mojos. For the last 25 years, she had used the 1930s narratives to grow, make and merchandise mojos and to discover what the caches were and how they were made. Now, having produced at least 20 of these ingredients, she has an extensive website of over 600 pages that describes and sells her products along with authentic descriptions of how to use them (Yronwode, 2001). Her large clientele is about 80% African American and 20% of European descent, mostly in the American South. Yronwode told Leone about a client in Hyattsville, Maryland, who was a regular church member, but who did not want her use of mojos known to her fellow church members. At this moment Smith’s ideas on Christianity took on a different reality. Hyattsville, about a mile from Leone’s office, is a mixed black and white community that has a great number of churches, and a large, locally-famous Catholic high school. It is 15 minutes from downtown Washington, 30 minutes from Annapolis, and part of Prince George’s County, home to the largest and wealthiest middle-class African-American community in the United States.
With one well-announced archaeological discovery, we discovered what many, if not most, African Americans already knew: the basis of Hoodoo was still alive and being used by practicing Christians. We were the only ones in this context who did not know this. However, archaeology helped to complete the circle by providing details of the history, variety, location and full range of materials used in past Hoodoo practices. These facts were only available in the archaeological record and could be revealed only through collaboration between archaeologists and other interested persons. In public, we linked the practices dating from 1790 among slaves to the same practices among some free African Americans. Further, we linked the changes in the practices that occurred in the nineteenth century to the twen¬tieth century, and then to a large, practicing community in Annapolis well after emancipation. African-American scholars led us to the narratives for meaning. Use of popular media (essential for users of critical theory) led Catherine Yronwode to us, and led us to the widespread, current use of Hoodoo, and its existence among Christians on our own doorstep. Through this work we have come to understand that in Hoodoo, both past and present, West Africa lives within the Christianity of the neighborhood where we work. Showing that Hoodoo did not go away illustrates that Africa molded Christianity, something many Westerners believe is the West’s most precious cultural creation. Seeing this allows both white American and African-American Christians to reconsider the contours of their religion as one more uniquely American and one formed closer to the historic interstices of race and racism than typically believed.
Marxism and critical theory are based in a grounding of culture in its material conditions. The point is to allow material practice (whether religion, architecture, or other sorts of social action and discourse) to illumi¬nate consciousness and its sources rather than letting our preconceptions about consciousness guide interpretation. In this paper we have used Marxist theory to rethink the two most dominant problems in American his¬torical archaeology: the development of the modern state in the American colonies and the ethnogenesis of African America. We have then reviewed how the practice of historical archaeology may also be redefined by a criti¬cal Marxist approach that mediates the structures of power that define archaeological research and its public responsibilities.
A key point in this work has been to assert the significance of history and contingency in making conclusions about social action and consciousness of both those in the past as well as ours as we practice archaeology in the present. Similarly the answers for ‘what comes next?’ do not come from a free-floating Marxist critical archaeology. Rather, they come from using critical archaeology to understand the historical conditions that exist today and striving to produce new, or hitherto concealed, ways of considering the means and sorts of social discourse that are useful, given those conditions, for going forth. A Marxist archaeology helps us to define a politics through our work that we can live with.
We would like to thank Randall McGuire and the other anonymous reviewers for the comments on an earlier draft of this article. We trust that they will see their advice put to use in this revision. Matthews and Jordan would also like to recognize the guidance and influence of Joan Vincent and Nan Rothschild of Barnard College whose comments on versions of some sections of this article helped to bring focus and caution to some of the interpretations. We also thank Henry Miller, who pro¬vided us with Figure 1, and Les Graves, who created and provided us with Figure 2. Finally, we thank Lynn Meskell, Jeremy Toynbee and Matt Palus who aided us in preparing and finalizing the article.
1 This approach to material culture is reliant on an understanding of the deeply situated perspectives of those actors who made, used and discarded what are now archaeological materials which embraces the possibility for ambiguity (Hodder, 1983; Howson, 1990). The meanings of objects, even more so than words, are malleable and slippery, and a material thing can have many meanings. However, given certain circumstances, some meanings may stand out over others and many meanings may be condensed or lost. We suggest here that racism, as an ideological construction formed to heal the rupture within the dominant order of plantation slavery, produced such conditions. This is not to say that the ambiguity of meanings is replaced by those defined in response to racism, rather, that racism, as a structured manner of thinking (a distinct and historical form of consciousness), brought about conditions which directed the interpretation of the meanings of things.
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Christopher N. Matthews is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Hofstra University. He has directed historical archaeological excavations and public archaeology programs in Maryland and Louisiana. He is the author of the forthcoming book An Archaeology of History and Tradition: Moments of Danger in the Annapolis Landscape (Kluwer/Plenum). [email: firstname.lastname@example.org]
Mark P. Leone is a Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Maryland College Park. He directs Archaeology in Annapo¬lis. His edited volumes include The Recovery of Meaning (with Parker B. Potter, Jr, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1988) and Historical Archaeologies of Capitalism (with Parker B. Potter, Jr, Kluwer/Plenum, 1999). He wrote Invisible America (with Neil Silberman, Henry Holt Co., 1995). [email: email@example.com]
Kurt A. Jordan is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology, Columbia University. He has worked extensively on historic Native Ameri¬can sites in New York State and since 1996 has co-directed excavations at the Iroquois Seneca Townley-Read site near Geneva, NY, the results of which form the basis of his upcoming dissertation. [email: firstname.lastname@example.org]