Category Archives: Featured

The World of Columbus Day is Flat

For Ty Tumminia: comrade, friend, anti-fascist, Black liberationist.  Last time we wrote, Andy Pragacz and I were exploring the spaces around Binghamton christened for Christopher Columbus, and how they came to take his name.  Today, we take that a bit further and ponder the Italian connection to Columbus, and why that narrative no longer serves the Italian community. Since the ethnic and race rebellions of the 1960s, Columbus’ place in the pantheon of American heroes has been jeopardized. By the 1990s, scholars annually sounded his final fall. Marking the 500 year anniversary one scholar confidently concluded that, like Custer before him, “it is now Christopher Columbus’s turn at the chopping block” (Lunenfeld 1992, 137). Twenty-five years later, Columbus is still in the American Olympus, but rather than seated next to Franklin, he’s dangling from the edge. Articles like “Should the United States Celebrate Columbus Day?” and “How Columbus Day Fell Victim to its Own Success”are commonplace around the 12th of October. Protesting Columbus Day is, in 2017, as much a part of the Columbus Day tradition as Italian flags. As the above Atlantic writer notes, the day is “marked by parades, pageantry, and buckets of fake blood.” So, Why does [Read More]

The Columbian Geography of Binghamton

As state employees and school children around the country enjoy their four-day work weeks, we at MAPA are hard at work deconstructing Columbus day, like any credible archaeology blog must. I am back, with my colleagues Andy Pragacz, to talk about Columbus commemorations. Thanks to BlackLivesMatter activism followed by far-right reaction, monuments, particularly of Confederate soldiers, have seized national and local news, bringing many archaeologists into the controversy: Rosemary Joyce and Paul Mullins, to name a few. As Columbus Day approached, many statues of Christopher Columbus were similarly ­­­­­­­­­questioned. Baltimore’s monument to Christopher Columbus, the first monument to the man in the United States, was smashed in August of this year. After recent vandalism of similar monuments in New York City, police are guarding the Columbus Circle monument in Manhattan from future attacks. Some in Minneapolis have suggested that a statue of Prince should replace their Columbus monument. In our own city of Binghamton, the statue of Christopher Columbus that adorns the Broome County Court House was spray painted “murderer” twice in as many weeks.  Binghamton residents tossed vegan bologna at a portrait of Cristobal Colon in Columbus Park, temporarily renamed Bologna Park for the occassion. The Columbus of  1492 is [Read More]

The Authorized Heritage Discourse of Labor, and why it matters

To wrap up, I’d like to consider the cases I’ve presented as they work within the Authorized Heritage Discourse. While united by the gravity of the events, the centrality of steel, coal, and trains to the modern United States, and my dissertation research- Homestead, Pullman, and Ludlow present three starkly contrasting ways of memorializing labor, and three stunning examples of the Authorized Heritage Discourse at work. At Homestead, the Authorized Heritage Discourse of the Waterfront Shopping Center is one of industry and nation building. When the history of the site must be confronted, (usually out of physical necessity) it is done so in a way that emphasizes the might of steel, and by extension, the United States because of it. This is a sanitized account of the history- where the Battle of Homestead, and workers at Homestead are relegated to the periphery- both figuratively in the narrative, and literally in the organization of the mall. At Pullman, the original Authorized Heritage Discourse of a model town is maintained, as the model homes that occupy it were built to last.  The history told of Pullman remains one of quaint historic homes, and what would have been state of the art amenities. [Read More]

Bears Ears (Revisited) – All About Landscapes

Howdy! Last September, I wrote about the controversy surrounding the creation of Bears Ears National Monument, in Utah. I argued that while we as a nation have inherited the public lands of Southeastern Utah, that does not necessarily mean we own them. Furthermore, I suggested that as a consequence of the history of power relations in the U.S. West, “local” communities should not have “disproportionate power and authority to dictate land management strategies” on adjacent public lands. At the time, it was not certain whether or not the monument would be created. Well, in the waning days of his administration, President Obama used his authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to designate a new 1.35 million acre national monument – Bears Ears became a reality. The designation was applauded by conservationists, environmental groups, archaeologists and tribal groups. For others, the monument came as a bitter pill, and opponents of the designation decried it as a “federal land grab.” Considering that nearly all the acreage that became Bears Ears National Monument was already administered by either the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management, I’m not entirely sure who the federal government “grabbed” it from. I presume that opponents are referring to the possible removal of vast [Read More]

Cases for Comparison: Two Other Sites of Labor Conflict

Last week I wrote about the Battle of Homestead, and the Waterfront shopping mall that now occupies the site, but not all locations of class warfare are reused in such an extreme fashion.  As two examples, I propose the cases of Pullman, Chicago and Ludlow, Colorado, where I plan to do my dissertation research this summer. Pullman George M. Pullman built the Pullman neighborhood of Chicago as a model town for workers in his train car factory.  He believed that with cutting edge homes, his workers would have elevated status from workers in other companies and that this would encourage moral behavior and strong work ethic.  The so-called utopia of Pullman was spatially separated from the city of Chicago.  To this end, housing was organized by class, where executives and “skilled” workers lived closest to main attractions, and “unskilled” workers’ homes were placed on the outskirts.  In addition to model housing, Pullman residents enjoyed markets, banks, libraries, and parks, as long as they signed a lease, agreeing to the regulation of their behavior. In 1894, workers in the Pullman train car factory went on strike due to a wage cut. While their pay decreased, rent in their company houses remained [Read More]

Labor Heritage at Homestead

The Battle of Homestead marks the historic defeat of the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers (AAISW) by the Carnegie Steel Corporation at the Homestead Steel Works in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At the time of the strike in 1892, the Carnegie Steel Corporation, owned by Andrew Carnegie, was the world’s largest manufacturing firm, and AAISW was the nation’s strongest union. The Battle of Homestead The Battle began as a lockout on June 28, 1892 (Burgoyne 1979:33). Workers were upset with the sliding scale wage system, in which the selling price of steel determined wages (Demarest Jr. 1999:25. On July 6th 1892, two barges carried 300 Pinkerton Detectives (hired by the Carnegie Steel Corporation) up the Monongahela River to the Homestead Steel Works. Workers and Homestead citizens, including women and children, confronted the boats near the mill’s still standing Pump House, and a battle erupted (Krause 1992:15-16). Workers and Homestead residents took up all matters of defense against the Pinkertons, including a Civil War cannon taken from a nearby park.  Luckily for the workers, the outnumbered Pinkertons surrendered by the end of the day. Many were injured, and two or three Pinkerton men died (Krause 1992:25,34-39, Burgoyne 1979:92) After the worker’s [Read More]

Heritage of Labor Conflict in the United States

Hey there! I’m Maura Bainbridge, PhD Candidate at Binghamton and next up on the MAPA blog.  This month I will be talking about my research, that is – labor heritage in the United States. Many former MAPA blog posts have talked about heritage issues (Hey Ashley! Hi Angela!) but I aim to do so in the context of labor, particularly labor conflicts. Situating Heritage  I’m choosing to engage with heritage, rather than history, because heritage leaves room for personal identity- as people living today pick and choose bits of the past to identify with. (Though constructions of history are a fertile issue for another blog series.) Capitalism, and thus labor relations, are implicated in heritage production as more goods (tokens of memory to place aspects of identity into) are created, and the past is actively bulldozed over, reinforcing the need to remember before it’s too late (Connerton 1989). Laurajane Smith (2006) presents the concept of ‘authorized heritage discourse,’ (AHD) as the official narrative of the past. The AHD focuses on beautiful objects, sites and places.  These must be preserved for future generations “for their ‘education’, and to forge a sense of common identity based on the past.” This discourse commonly [Read More]

Mentoring Session for Careers in Archaeology: Government Archaeology Work

In keeping with my goals of networking to further my career opportunities (see post “Networking for Introverts”), I signed up for the Mentoring Session for Careers in Archaeology for Government Archaeology Work. This is a new session, sponsored by the Queer Archaeology Interest Group and the Committee for Status of Women in Archaeology, during which small groups of graduate students and young professionals were matched up with archaeologists experienced in the subgroup topic – other groups talked about Work/Life balance, discrimination in the workplace, moving from graduate school to tenure track and other topics, all within the lens of the challenges particular to women and queer folks in archaeology. I wasn’t exactly what the format or discussion topics would be, but as a queer woman entering government service, I want to take advantage of every chance to talk to and learn from others in the know – and I’m so grateful for QAIG and COSWA for setting up the event. I hope they continue to provide opportunities to discuss these topics in a safe and open environment. For the Government Archaeology table, we had two excellent mentors – David E. Witt from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation [Read More]

Mentoring Sessions in Archaeology: Qu(e)rying and Unpacking Discrimination in Archaeology

The SAA Meeting is not all about hearing presentations about exciting research in your field, or practicing your “Yes, this is interesting to me” face during really boring ones.  Meetings are about connecting to people outside of your university.  You can read important papers on the internet, and your “feigned interested” look gets enough workout in your classes and seminars; however, conferences are the best opportunity to extract as much knowledge out of the nation’s best archaeologists as possible.  One of these knowledge sources is mentoring. Most graduate students get some mentoring in their home programs, but as the number of people in any one graduate program is limited, this mentoring is a finite resource.  Plus, there is also a chance that you have unique obstacles on which individuals in your program are not equipped to advise.  This is where the SAAs come to the rescue!  With thousands of experience archaeologists, there are countless opportunities for mentorship.  This year, the Queer Archaeology Interest Group and Committee on the Status of Women in Archaeology formalized this process.  They set up an event that allowed graduate students and junior faculty members to network and get advice from more senior faculty members in [Read More]

Gender, Sexuality, and Queer Theory at SAA 2017

The themes I discussed in my recent series of blog posts came to life on Thursday during the #SAA2017 conference in a series of symposia, workshops, forums, and meetings about issues of gender, sexuality, and intersectionality.  The day started with the symposium “Constructing Archaeology: Sex/Gender and Sexuality Research from the Periphery to the Center”, organized by Kirsten Vacca.  The variety of paper presentations, ranging from gender in the Viking Age, queerphobia in Christianity, to incorporating intersectionality into college curricula, examined the manner in which issues of gender and sexuality may be made central to the archaeological project.  Discussant Chelsea Blackmore offered suggestions that all archaeologists who examine gender should take to heart.  First, we need to interrogate rather than assume our understanding of intersectionality.  Intersectionality is not simply the entwining together of several different identities, but relations of power.  Second, we need more prehistoric archaeologists theorizing intersectionality, and applying it to their work.  Third, gender archaeologists need to rethink how they are practicing their work.  Are we taking intersectionality seriously? What new questions should we be asking? Is staying in our own little boxes keeping gender archaeology on the periphery?  Finally, we must link our work through social action, that [Read More]