please note we will be meeting on Tuesday rather than Thursday
Professor of East Asian Studies
University of Arizona
with a response from
Professor of History
University of Chicago
March 31 Tuesday 4-6pm
Social Sciences Tea Room (SS201)
Our last meeting of the quarter will be a joint session with the Interdisciplinary Archaeology Workshop. In place of a precirculated paper, the speaker will give a PowerPoint presentation for 30-40 minutes followed by discussion.
D. Ryan Gray
Graduate student in the Department of Anthropology
University of Chicago
“Identity and the Material Dimensions of Public and Private Practice: Archaeology of a Chinese Laundry in New Orleans”
March 12 Thursday 4:00-5:30 pm
Haskell Hall Mezzanine, Room 102
Abstract: While the lives of Asian-American immigrants in the American West have attracted considerable attention from an archaeological perspective, the subject has been little studied in the East, and even less so in the southern United States. Excavations at the site of a laundry operated by a Chinese immigrant in New Orleans, Louisiana, between 1890 and 1920 offer an opportunity to examine the complex place occupied by Asian-Americans in a society increasingly structured by the starkly dualistic racial hierarchy of Jim Crow segregation. Historic documents examined in this paper emphasize the often ambiguous social position of immigrant Chinese in New Orleans culture, with records demonstrating unclear and conflicting racial designations, shifting names, and domestic arrangements that seem to have violated the letter of the law. While in the turn-of-the-century West,early Chinese immigrants appeared to have often maintained a unique or distinctive material culture, both publicly and privately, artifacts associated with the excavated laundry suggest that their counterparts in New Orleans understood the tenuousness of their position in the city. The resident laundryman utilized items that could be characterized as Chinese only in the most private settings of his home life, part of a strategy to avoid bringing attention to any difference that, within the Jim Crow South, would have been interpreted as evidence of a racialized inferiority. In doing so, the immigrant was able to exploit a place in the city both embedded within the fabric of the everyday but testing the possibilities of its margins.