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"Coming Back Together": Community-Based Archaeology in the Shadow of Contemporary Tourism at Millars Plantation, Eleuthera, Bahamas

Date and Time: 
Thursday, May 25, 2017. 05:00 PM - 06:30 PM
Meeting Location: 
Stanford Archaeology Center; Building 500, Room 106
Workshop: 
Archaeological Histories and Futures
Meeting Description: 

Tourism is a central part of contemporary Bahamian life. Yet, hidden within the tangled arrangement between a legible Bahamian cultural identity and the dependency on the tourism industry, a space for resistance is emerging. Incorporating the tools of Black Feminist archaeology and community-based approaches, the project at the Millars Plantation site is becoming that space. Usually, the practice of historical archaeology is understood as a method that uses excavation and archaeological interpretation to shape the stories of the past. At the Millars Plantation Site, the research team took into consideration multiple components of the past.  Questions such as what do the remnants of the colonial past look like? How does contemporary tourism impact places that are remembered and places that are forgotten? What are the issues on the island that impact the general economy? And finally, how do we strike a balance between developing a "recognized" cultural heritage site and the needs of the descendant community? The Millars Plantation Site, located in the southern region of the small island of Eleuthera, provided the research team an opportunity to push archaeological practice beyond the excavation unit, but to actively explore, through oral history and small-scale "memory mapping," a concentrated view of how one plantation landscape brings together people, history, identity, and a collective challenge to the limits of contemporary tourism in the country.

Dr. Whitney Battle-Baptiste, ’94, Virginia State University; G’00, The College of William & Mary; Ph.D.’04, University of Texas, Austin, where she graduated from the African Diaspora Program in Anthropology.  A native of the Bronx, New York, Dr. Battle-Baptistse is a scholar and activist who sees the classroom and the campus as a space to engage contemporary issues with a sensibility of the past. Her academic training is in history and historical archaeology.  Her research is primarily focused on how the intersection of race, gender, class and sexuality look through an archaeological lens.  Her research ranges from interpreting captive African domestic spaces at Andrew Jackson's Hermitage Plantation, to the early history of school segregation in Boston at the Abiel Smith School on Beacon Hill, the W. E. B. Du Bois Homesite (or House of the Black Burghardts) in Great Barrington, Mass., to the complexities of creating a community-driven heritage tourist site at Millars Plantation, on the Bahamian island of Eleuthera. She translates material culture and artifacts into complex interpretations of African American domestic life has made her a pioneer in her field. Her first book, Black Feminist Archaeology (Left Coast Press, 2011), outlines the basic tenets of Black feminist thought and research for archaeologists and shows how it can be used to improve contemporary historical archaeology as a whole. At the moment, she is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology and serves as the Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Center at UMass Amherst. She is currently working on a book project reimagining the work W. E. B. Du Bois as a method to connect historical archaeology and Black Studies.

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