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History and Memory in the Mexican Highlands

Date and Time: 
Thursday, June 6, 2019. 05:00 PM - 06:30 PM
Meeting Location: 
Stanford Archaeology Center
Workshop: 
Archaeology: Connectivity and Temporality, An Archaeological View
Meeting Description: 

Scholars and storytellers so often frame the past as tidy narratives, moving through clear beginnings, middles, and ends. Our modern understanding of time makes this construction obvious—but what are the repercussions of naturalizing the historical narrative in such a way? Is this how people actually experience history, how they relate to it? What are the real implications of the teleological narratives we write and how do we capture diverse understandings of history? This talk will explore the ways in which we study and write about the past. Drawing on more than a decade of research in Central Mexico’s Valley of Atlixco, I bring together historical, ethnographic, ethnoarchaeological, and archaeological research to question the master narrative of the Mexican Revolution. I discuss the methodological benefits and challenges of conducting research and writing across disciplinary boundaries. Finally, I conclude by reflecting upon the ways in which interdisciplinary, anthropologically-informed research may provide new perspectives on well-established historical narratives.

Elizabeth Terese Newman is a historical and environmental archaeologist and an associate professor in Stony Brook University’s Department of History. Her most recent book, Biography of a Hacienda: Work and Revolution in Rural Mexico (University of Arizona Press; Winner of the 2016 James Deetz Prize) draws on seven years of research in Puebla’s Valley of Atlixco. There, her research explored the lives of laborers on haciendas near Atlixco, Puebla in central Mexico, integrating the disciplines of archaeology, ethnography, and ethnohistory.  Newman is particularly interested in the experiences of women during the century between Mexican Independence and the Mexican Revolution (1810-1910), and the ways in which that history impacts life and labor today. Building on more than a decade of research in Mexico, Newman’s newest project examines the experiences of migrant farmers living in labor camps in Downeast Maine’s Blueberry Barrens.

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