Hampden Heritage

Archaeology, History, and Heritage in Central Baltimore

Monday, April 07, 2008

Bob's Dissertation Proposal, Part II

Again, any and all comments and criticisms are welcome and indeed, encouraged.

My dissertation will be the result of interdisciplinary research, including archival, oral historical, archaeological, and ethnographic investigations. The research will engage with and attempt to bring together several disparate themes of recent scholarship in both anthropology and history, including the creation and contestation of the boundaries of community; local memory, identity, and heritage; and the materiality of social practices. As such, the dissertation will be an example of “archaeology” in two different senses: both in the traditional meaning of archaeology (the anthropological study of past cultures through the excavation and analysis of material remains) as well as French social theorist Michel Foucault's version of "archaeology" (the systematic examination of the genealogy of some social phenomenon; in this case, the creation and contestation of community identity in a working-class neighborhood).[1] Specifically, the dissertation will address how material practices, both mundane and spectacular, have been vital instruments in the ongoing struggle between the local working class and various groups of “outsiders” over the definition of and values attached to community in Hampden-Woodberry. By “material practices,” I mean to include a broad array of social phenomena, including production and consumption, theatrical performance and the performances of everyday life, and the strategic uses of public and private space. I propose to examine documents, public performances, local landscapes, and the artifacts of everyday life all together as material manifestations of this struggle.

In addition to an introduction, a theoretical chapter, and a conclusion, I plan to include five chapters in the dissertation. Each chapter will address a specific arena in which community identity has been forged and contested (the workplace, the public sphere, the domestic sphere, and the economic sphere), as well as the social categories that have shaped these struggles (class, race, gender, and religion). The chapters will be organized more or less chronologically beginning with the 1870s, with some necessary temporal overlap between topics. Each chapter, however, will explore some aspect of the materiality of insurgent practices used in the struggle over community identity.

. . .

In my dissertation, then, I will explore the various material strategies (the production and consumption of artifacts, spaces, landscapes, and representations) that have been deployed in the creation and contestation of different identities, or subjectivities, in Hampden-Woodberry. These subjectivities include those based on race, class, gender, and religion. The relationships between these different subjectivities (within both individuals and larger groups) have played a central role in the definition of and struggles over local citizenship in Hampden-Woodberry.

[1] See Matthew Johnson, An Archaeology of Capitalism (Cambridge, England: Blackwell Publishers, 1996) for an excellent example of this dual approach to archaeology.


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