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Shopping to Survive: The Archaeology of White Supremacy and Consumer Racism

Date and Time: 
Thursday, November 10, 2016. 05:00 PM - 06:30 PM
Meeting Location: 
Stanford Archaeology Center; Building 500, Room 106
Workshop: 
Archaeological Histories and Futures
Meeting Description: 

In the middle and late 19th century, the anti-Chinese movement sought to eradicate Chinese Americans from the United States west, resulting in the displacement of tens of thousands of citizens and legal residents from California and other western states. Alongside legislation and direct violence, the anti-Chinese movement mobilized white consumers and merchants as foot soldiers in this “forgotten war.” Using archaeological, historical, and oral history research, this study traces the contours of white supremacy and consumer racism in San Jose, California’s, 19th century shopping district. What tactics did anti-Chinese leaders use to racialize the mundane, everyday act of shopping? How did Chinese American San Joseans – most of whom lived within the city’s retail center – navigate this racially-charged and discriminatory environment? By highlighting the relationships among shopping, violence, and alliance, this study contributes new vantage points to anthropological theories of consumption.

Dr. Barbara L. Voss, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Stanford University, is a historical archaeologist who studies the dynamics and outcomes of transnational cultural encounters: How did diverse groups of people, who previously had little knowledge of each other, navigate the challenges and opportunities caused by colonialism, conflict, and migration? Dr. Voss’s research practice interrogates the intersections of archaeological investigations, cultural resource management, and public interpretation, and draws on community-based methodologies to engage and collaborate with descendants and other heritage stakeholders.

Her current research focuses on 19th century migration from southern China, and includes three interrelated projects: (1) the Market Street Chinatown Archaeology Project (2002- present), a study of San Jose, California’s first Chinese community; (2) the interdisciplinary Chinese Railroad Workers of North America Project (2012-present), for which she serves as Director of Archaeology; and (3) the Cangdong Village Archaeology Project, in Kaiping County, Guangdong Province, China (2015-present). Dr. Voss is the two-time recipient of the American Anthropological Association’s Ruth Benedict Prize for her books Archaeologies of Sexuality (Routledge, 2000, co-edited with Robert A. Schmidt) and The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis (University of California Press, 2008), along with the 2008 Gordon R. Willey prize and the 2016 Heinlein Award.

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