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A Historical Archaeology of Capitalism

Article in American Anthropologist October 2009

DOI: 10.1525/aa.1995.97.2.02a00050


78 72

1 author:

Mark P. Leone
University of Maryland, College Park


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A Historical Archaeology of Capitalism
Author(s): Mark P. Leone
Source: American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 97, No. 2 (Jun., 1995), pp. 251-268
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Anthropological Association
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A Histrical of Capitalism

ConsideringPolitical Context and thus central to the process of culture itself. Both
authors are aware that archaeology has an important role
I raise the need for historical archaeology to be more
to play in debates about the political role of the past in
involved with the politics that sustains it. I advocate in-
people's ongoing lives. Each makes it clear that local
volvement with the factors that have defined wealth and
politics, in turn, affects discussions of the past. The imme-
social control in the past and continue to do so now. Such
diate context may be a debate over local economic or
political involvement will provide a more coherent justifi-
tourist development; but the ultimate explanation for the
cation for our concern with forgotten, anonymous, and
debate broadens, depending on the author, to include the
unknown peoples and groups, who are the exploited and
power relations among contending elites, the continuing
suppressed members of classes. These people have not
been left out of mainline presentations of the past by struggle for existence among minority groups, or the pro-
cess by which humans string meanings together in order
mistake. Rather, it is the politics of class that accounts for
to make sense of life. But despite all the calls for political
the absence of immigrants, children, women, slaves, and
free African Americans in the models of social behavior awareness, these authors do not deal with the fact that
that are created through historical narratives. This politics archaeology and archaeologists are unaware of being en-
not only suppresses the exploited themselves, but their tangled in the social relations they describe.
histories as well, leaving historical archaeology as their Over the last 25 years, cultural anthropologists have
means of finding a voice. largely achieved the political awareness I am advocating
Without the explicit consideration of politics at both for historical archaeologists. Dell Hymes, in the 1970s, and
the local and larger levels, there can be no adequate more recently Clifford, Marcus, and Fischer have argued
understanding of the material bases of historical archae- that the field of anthropology, as historically constituted,
ology in our own society. Nor can we effectively realize, has sometimes fostered colonialist, repressive, and ex-
without such an orientation, the rationale for historical ploitative relations, or else tried to avoid politics alto-
archaeology as the study of European expansion through- gether.2Today, anthropologists join with scholars in other
out the world. The alternative is to continue to live with fields such as cultural studies in trying to understand how
our current political innocence and political ineffective- American culture and capitalism have shaped their field.
ness. Cultural anthropologists including Eco, Grossberg,
Calls are coming from two directions for historical During, Foley, Newman, Varenne, Deming, Passerini,
archaeologists to consider politics and be political. One Messick, and Connerton have critiqued ethnographic
call comes from outside the field, one from within. Cri- method and advocated hermeneutic readings of historical
tiques of historic preservation, outdoor history museums, sources.3 They pay close attention to local history and
urban renewal, historical places, and tourism constitute politics and discuss the problems caused by disciplinary
the call from outside the field.1 In recent issues of this boundaries. Unlike many mainline scientists, they are
journal, Friedman (1992) and Bruner (1994) have pointed willing to situate their work in contemporary environ-
out the centrality of political concerns when an archae- ments. Many of these writers use deconstructive tech-
ological past is used to establish national identity. Fried- niques derived from Derrida (1978) to reveal the role of
man argues that people negotiate their national and local the present, even when the role is being suppressed. They
identities with a seriousness that shows these identities elucidate the role of capitalism in constructing and impris-
are vital to group existence. Bruner sees the discussion of oning anthropology. And others, like Foley and Rap-
historical matters as central to the creation of meanings paport, involve themselves and their work in local poli-
tics.4 As historical archaeologists, we are thus surrounded
both by calls to understand the political character of our
MARKLEONE is Professor, ofAnthropology,
Department of
University scholarship and by calls for explicit political action,
Maryland, though none of these calls is aimed specifically at us.

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252 AMERICAN * VOL. 97, NO. 2 ? JUNE1995

The second call to political awareness comes from In considering this situation, one in which I also have
within archaeology itself. The most consistent voices been personally involved, it has seemed to me that a
come from British prehistorians, including Shanks and number of factors make it difficult for the profession to
Tilley, Daniel Miller, Barrett, and Hodder and his students, recognize the political realities surrounding historical ar-
who invoke the work of Adorno, Bernamin, Gramsci, and chaeology. Bringing these factors into the discussion will
Habermas.5For depth of intellectual development, knowl- help us understand why materialist postmodern thought
edge of European political-philosophical traditions, and has not penetrated our field. One factor is the turn-of-the-
quantity of publications, they have few parallels in the century claim of scientific neutrality, inherited by sub-
United States (Mcintosh et al. 1989). American archaeolo- sequent generations of archaeologists. Another is the ab-
gists have tended to ignore this work; if it is used, it is used sence of a general theory capable of connecting past and
only in politically sanitized "contextual" studies. The call present within the field of historical archaeology. Evolu-
within international archaeology for self-examination in tionary theory, which still more or less provides the intel-
matters of power has received few responses in the United lectual framework for American prehistoric archaeology,
States. never became established within historical archaeology;
However, there are American archaeologists, includ- nor has any other theory ever exercised a comparable
ing Robert Paynter, Randall McGuire, Alison Wylie, dominance over our own field. Consequently, we lack the
Russell Handsman, Thomas Patterson, Parker Potter, sort of overarching theoretical framework that would
Joan Gero, Charles Orser, Janet Spector, Paul Shackel, legitimate the methods we use and research we design.
Barbara Little, and myself, who have written about the Finally, there is the fact that earlier social theories
formative role local politics plays in archaeological inter- tended to neglect the importance of material culture. Most
pretation.6 The work of our British colleagues and collabo- earlier social theorists, including Tyler, Malinowski, Levi-
rators has clearly influenced our own efforts. The post- Strauss, and Weber, made little or no use of the material
modern turn in cultural anthropology, following the work world; many considered it a mere derivative. Even though
of Schneider and Geertz in the mid-1970s, has also been the character of archaeology that orients it to things is at
important to us (Bamett and Silverman 1979). odds with these social theories, most archaeologists ac-
Antecedents to our own efforts are found in the work cepted the derivative nature of the material culture they
of Robert Schuyler and Stanley South, both of whom studied. Archaeologists used artifacts merely to recon-
independently proposed that historical archaeology con- struct models of past social life in accord with the anthro-
cern itself with the scientific study of European colonial- pological theories then current. Thus they provided little
ism. Schuyler stated his position in plain words: novel information. And most social theorists, in turn, had
HistoricSites Archaeologycan make a majorcontributionto little use for the small-scale questions of origins or social
modem anthropologyby studyingthe processes of European development that archaeologists handled.
expansion, exploration,and colonializationas well as those Postmodern theorists, however, have made it possi-
of culture contact and imperialismthat underlieone of the ble to connect material culture with the world of politics.
most dynamicperiods of world history.[1978(1970):28,30] Important advances include Giddens 1984 on the idea of
structuration and Foucault 1979 on the exercise of power
Stanley South was equally clear:
through technologies of the self. Most helpful here is
The transformationto the next level would involve data re- Giddens's argument that material culture, like language,
flecting indigenous territorialpatterns plus the associated forms its users' meanings-or lives-in use. Thus making,
colonial territorialpatterns.Suchpatternswould result from like speaking, can be argued to be a part, indeed an
combiningarchaeologicaldata from GreatBritain... with indispensable part, of creating culture. This idea, origi-
those from the British colonial world system, thus forming
nally found in Marx, was later made famous by Gordon
new Britishnationalisticculturalpatternsreflectingthe global
Childe; but in Giddens we have a powerful intellectual
descendant of those two. Foucault's work can be used to
However, neither author would probably think that further specify Giddens's. Foucault's study of the tech-
an investigation of the political context of contemporary nologies of power has enabled me to use the study of local
archaeological projects would be relevant to the issues of power to connect politics with archaeology. Though I had
the field itself. Thus, while the work of Schuyler and South read some of his writings, I did not know Foucault's work
is an antecedent to our own, in that it gives a material on the disciplines of power when I began the historical
definition to the task of historical archaeology, we must archaeology of Annapolis, Maryland in 1981. However, I
admit that current forms of postmodern materialist believe that without the insights provided in his Disc/-
theory have gone further than theirs did. Unfortunately, pline and Punish, my own work would be much less
historical archaeology has not responded even to their substantial.
calls, nor has it turned to studying any of the events they If historical archaeology is to concern itself with local
suggested. politics and political action, it must have a method for

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connecting archaeologists with local settings. The writ- ability" involves a willingness on the part of all partici-
ings of Georg Lukacs and Jiirgen Habermas offer two, pants to subject their proposed interpretations and expla-
somewhat different, models for studying the past in rela- nations to criticism.
tion to the present. Both writers adjust known rationales When the parties are contending over archaeological
for studying the past to modem circumstances by recog- materials, in or out of the ground, two goals are important.
nizing the impact of class relations and by raising the issue First, all parties should commit themselves to the preser-
of what use knowledge of the past can be. vation and enhancement of the culture under study. As
In his famous Reification and the Consciousness of deconstruction has shown (Shanks and Tilley 1987a:68-
the Proletariat, Lukacs (1971) argued that the historian's 99), scientific methods of study tend to demean the cul-
task is to uncover the origins of modern class-based mis- ture of others, as well as the others themselves, by meas-
representations. Such ideologies are the received ration- uring, comparing, objectifying, and denaturing them.
alizations for practices like slavery, sexism, racism, and Archaeologists, however, are also capable of providing to
other forms of exploitation. Lukacs argues that members disfranchised groups a view of the past defined as worth-
of classes other than the elite and the bourgeoisie can see while bythe disfranchised themselves. The volumes of the
their own present position clearly if they can be shown a first WorldArchaeology Congress contain many examples
past in which their condition was different. Such a form of archaeology done in partnership with those usually
of history involves piercing the masking ideologies used thought to be "other."8An alternative point of view can be
to convince marginalized groups that they themselves are preserved in this way. Archaeology itself, then, can
responsible for their current condition, or, alternatively, achieve the first goal.
that their condition is natural, universal, divinely or- The second goal is enhancing democracy by equaliz-
dained, established by the Founding Fathers, or histori- a
ing dialogue that has long been dominated by the expert
cally inevitable. Since ideology usually presents itself as discourse of science. This can be achieved by breaking
timeless (Althusser 1971), an archaeologist could pierce down the dominant position that members of scientific
the masks that subordinate people and groups in order to hierarchies usually accord themselves in dialogue with
reach and describe times when these conditions did not others.
exist. Such knowledge could lead to more effective con- Though nearly everyone, nearly every day, uses
sciousness of current economic and political conditions. Habermasian strategies of negotiation in ordinary dis-
This, in turn, could lead to the formation of alliances course, such strategies are not usually considered to be
among groups that have been treated similarly but have part of archaeological work. Historical archaeologists,
learned to see themselves as, for example, ethnically dif- however, may find it helpful to take such negotiations
ferent; this, in its turn, might lead to more effective politi- explicitly into account. Classes, in a capitalist society, are
cal action. In all his writings, Lukacs was committed to a often kept in their places by ideologies that claim social
critique that saw capitalism as producing a society that place is the result of ineluctable factors (such as differing
should be challenged and replaced. genetic and historic endowments). However, each such
However, it is extremely difficult to achieve class group also has a history and a material culture, which
consciousness and almost impossible to sustain it. Cer- sometimes function to preserve uniqueness, as in the
tainly it has been hard to achieve enough general knowl- celebration of folk art, but can also symbolize or even
edge of common exploitative conditions to sustain alli- actualize the group's subordination, as with some items of
ances between groups of working people in the United mass consumption. In a dialogue with a student of a
States. In an attempt to deal with this problem, which has capitalist society, each group's questions about its past, as
been known for decades, Jurgen Habermas proposed the formulated by its members, could propose useful topics
notion of an ideal speech situation. for researchers in material culture, including historical
Habermas proposes that the most desirable political archaeologists.
environment is one in which there is a dialogue among Lukacs and Habermas, then, produce two different
equals.7 His model begins with discourse among unequal rationales for the work of understanding and interpreting
parties and proposes means of achieving a greater equal- the past. Lukacs called upon historians to redirect their
ity of relations among them. The goal is to "level the work and to speak with those caught within ideology. He
playing field." For Habermas, discourse among equals has made the historian an essential ally of the worker and
four characteristics: intelligibility, honesty, legitimacy, directed social change to favor workers' interests. Haber-
and believability. "Intelligibility,"for Habermas, means mas, on the other hand, sees the work of the historian as
that discourse is conducted in terms comprehensible to arising out of a dialogue between historians (who explic-
all parties. "Honesty"means that all parties are sincere in itly acknowledge both their skills and their preexisting
their intentions. "Legitimacy" means that negotiation interests) and people who live in different, but explicitly
among all parties determines what will be the permissible valued, cultures. Habermas locates the value of historical
and forbidden topics and terms of the discourse. "Believ- work, in a capitalist system, in the differences among its

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254 AMERICAN * VOL.97, NO. 2 . JUNE1995

classes, specifically between those who are cultural insid- Over time, historical archaeology and material culture
ers and those who are outside the system (or try to be). studies have played an increasingly important role in both
The practices of these groups, in resisting capitalism, may concerns. Sound and basic archaeological work has been
constitute an implicit critique of it, which, if described and done in the Chesapeake area for over 60 years. The strong
known, could leaven capitalism's effects. This is the job archaeological traditions at Jamestown, Colonial Wil-
of the social scientist, including, by extension, the histori- liamsburg, and Historic St. Mary'sCity have helped define
cal archaeologist. chronologies, methods, and uses for American historical
Habermas's position, of course, can be highly prob- archaeology.1?Yet a problem emerges when one looks at
lematical: the ability of capitalism in American society to this work more closely. The archaeology and the muse-
absorb criticism and neutralize alternative ways of living ums that employ it are supposed to be about American
is well known to many. If the alternative is not destroyed, origins, but both in fact are detached from virtually every
it may be trivialized, romanticized, and watered down, and aspect of contemporary American life. The pottery and
so absorbed into the mainstream; rarely is the knowledge the other artifacts collected and displayed in museums are
of alternative ways of living used productively for reform. not connected to issues involving patriotism, toleration,
However, any such argument depends upon people's urban conditions, economic conditions, class life, city
willingness to see history as a potentially controllable locations, poverty, slavery, or emancipation. Nor do they
sequence of events, not an uncontrollable "fate."These explain why the archaeology of such a heritage needs
would be people who believe that history can provide protecting.
useful knowledge, who are convinced that a past can do When I began my work, it came as a surprise to me
some good, and who believe that such knowledge can be that there was no comparative tradition in historical ar-
had in partnership with others whose motives have usu- chaeology. Questions about the founding and develop-
ally not been paired with theirs. We have tried out the ment of cities, institutions, classes, farms, landscapes,
rationales of both Lukacs and Habermas in Annapolis as money, markets, and trade were not asked; Savannah,
we continue our struggle to tie our own archaeological Charleston, Alexandria, Philadelphia, New York, Boston,
purposes and political possibilities together. and Annapolis were not compared at any level. The evo-
lutionary questions of the new archaeology, concerning
populations, agriculture, and cities, were not being asked
Deconstructionof Local History of the 17th- and 18th-century Chesapeake area. And yet it
was assumed by historians, historical archaeologists, and
I would like to offer an example that has some general the public that it was our national origins on display at the
implications for a politically aware historical archaeol- museums, connected by a wonderful tale of national de-
ogy. As this example will show, my coworkers and I have velopment to the United States of today. There seems to
not avoided the difficulties of a political archaeology; be nothing accidental about what happened here; it was
rather, we have lived with them. We were experimenting inevitable that life in colonial times should have evolved
with Lukacsian approaches to historical archaeology; our into the lives we all lead today. Yet the story these muse-
intent was to raise the level of consciousness among ums present is largely irrelevant to our lives.
tourists and residents of Annapolis. In this, we failed. My deconstruction focuses on this ideology: A spe-
However, we also began what has since become a long- cific colonial "then" led to all of "us" here now. If so, no
term and fairly successful dialogue with people from An- questions about the evolution of the American political
napolis's varied African American communities. economy need to be asked. It becomes the job of scholars
My account begins with observations that led to a to provide verifying details, not to ask questions about the
deconstruction of local history, in which Althusserian ideology itself. However, if a locally based but nationally
concepts were used to reveal the ideologies operating in directed presentation of American history is subjected to
historical presentations. It was assumed that such presen- the kind of questions historical materialists ask about
tations are cultural creations that serve not to challenge capitalism, the outcome of the history it presents no
present social relations but to continue them into the longer appears inevitable. An alternative history could
future. begin with classes during the era of their creation. This
For the past 18 years, I have been committed to alternative history would link disfranchised groups and
understanding the Chesapeake region through historical pierce ideology; it might provoke some viewers into a
archaeology. With such a commitment, one inherits the heightened consciousness of their own positions.
rich and substantial scholarship on European settlement The initial discovery and settlement of the
in the area9 One also inherits the effort, ongoing since Chesapeake region by the Spanish in the 16th century, the
Mount Vernon was made the nation's first historic house virtual absence of slaves in early English Chesapeake
in the 1850s, to create national interpretations of Ameri- society, the presence of free Africans, the fluid nature of
can history in the region containing the nation's capital. wealth, and the wide availability of land until 1660 or 1680

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all provide a look at a profit-making society that had not area today in line with current explorations that focus on
yet become fixed and stratified-wholly unlike the one on the ways power is created and distributed over groups.
display at Colonial Williamsburg, the canonical version of One easy way to do this comes from seeing the area's
the way America was founded. cityscapes and landscapes as efforts at three-dimensional
After isolating the ideology of "inevitability,"we can control, not merely as two-dimensional plans for traffic,
seek an alternative history in the works of Chesapeake trade, and efficiency.
historians Edmund Morgan and Rhys Isaac. They ask a The work of Henry Miller (1988) on Historic St.
different set of questions: Why are some people poor? Mary's City showed that Maryland's 17th-century capital
How do others get and stay rich? What is the relationship had a baroque settlement plan, which used radiating
between them? They ask also why the American Revolu- streets to create vistas between the governor's house, the
tion was needed to entrench these unequal relationships. Catholic church, the capital, and the jail. Previously,
Finally, they ask whom such history serves. scholars had not thought that the city had a plan. There
Over a decade ago, Rhys Isaac (1982) argued that the was a largely implicit assumption that the settlement was
Virginia gentry had been steadily losing power since the helter-skelter; thus no one looked for evidence of a city
1740s; it led the American Revolution in order to avoid plan. In addition, historians and archaeologists had be-
losing even more of its power. He argued that the coun- lieved large sections of the original settlement had been
try's founders used the ideas of liberty and freedom to eroded into the Chesapeake Bay; since Miller did his work,
create an alliance among poor white farmers, city work- it has become apparent that the whole of the town sur-
ers, and gentry, based on the illusion that a profound tie, vives archaeologically.
the enjoyment of liberty, united them all. It was this alli- In the case of Annapolis, it is an established fact that
ance that defeated the British. it had a baroque town plan. My colleagues and I, however,
Earlier, in 1975, Edmund Morgan had made his even have added two points from the literature on baroque
more famous case. InAmerican Slavery, American Free- planning.u1First, baroque town plans were explicit at-
dom he argued that slavery was seen in the 18th century tempts to create illusions designed to enhance centers of
as leading to the same unfortunate consequences as pov- power, using the laws of perspective codified by the Ren-
erty. In the minds of the country's founders, both slavery aissance Italian theorists Alberti and Salviati (Bacon
and poverty produced people unfit to share in govern- 1968). Second, even at the time of their first settlements,
ment. The enslaved and the poor led lives made unpre- Europeans in the Chesapeake area were shaping land-
dictable by poverty, which made them both ungovernable scapes, both urban and rural, into illusions intended to
and unfit to govern. Morgan argued, however, that the establish their power. They had read European theoretical
poverty of the workers was essential to America in any writings on the use of perspectival illusions to achieve or
age; and that poverty and workers were bonded together enhance power, and they used their knowledge from the
intellectually throughout the 18th century. It was the pov- start. Thus the area around Washington has always con-
erty of the workers that made freedom possible for those tained illusions created to establish the power of those
who were rich. American freedom, then, depended on who built them. We are the only ones who did not know
endemic poverty, of which slavery was just an extreme this.
form. Here was an academically not so popular question One can ask whether the physical and political con-
about class, rooted in the history of the slavery- and sequences of baroque town planning remain intact in the
poverty-rich Chesapeake area. Archaeologists exploring Chesapeake area, or whether they have been disrupted
Morgan's hypothesis could ask questions like these: How over the centuries. Baroque theories of power attempted
was endemic poverty maintained? What archaeological to establish stratified social hierarchies by creating envi-
evidence of classes and class resistance can be found? ronments that proclaimed a natural law dependent on
What uses were made of market mechanisms? What was divinely ordained, natural hierarchies. This is the theory
the local subsistence level? What ideologies maintained behind the orderliness of the vast majority of 18th-century
the system of endemic poverty? What successes and fail- plantations. But could the plans of the new American
ures did they have? In what material culture was all this federal republic be promoted by a similar theory of
embodied? Who would care to know about this? power? The answer to this question also solves the
Chesapeake-wide problem of how to control an impover-
ished and potentially unruly population. In Annapolis, for
Baroqueand Panoptic Planning example, at least 25 percent of the population consisted
of slaves by 1750, and 5 percent of the inventoried popu-
Answers to such questions will break down the ide- lation owned, at death, 85 percent of the wealth.'2 Since
ology that proposes a smooth and inevitable movement 1720, the distribution of wealth in Chesapeake society had
from the colonial era to America today. Working on such become more and more unequal, and little was to change
questions brings the archaeology done in the Chesapeake in this respect after 1775.

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256 AMERICAN * VOL. 97, NO. 2 * JUNE1995

The answer also makes it possible to connect the

archaeological and historical work done in the
Chesapeake with the founding of our democratic regime,
a group of events that also, for the most part, took place
in the Chesapeake area. The link I will establish between
baroque hierarchy and the establishment of the republic
also connects the politics of exploitation to the historical
archaeology of subordination, and especially to the
changes in urban planning that began in the Federal Era
(1780-1820). The Chesapeake historians Isaac and Mor-
gan argued that two needs existed after the American
Revolution. One was to maintain the illusion of unity
among different classes. The other was to keep classes
separate in fact; some would work hard and peacefully,
while others would remain unchallenged in their newly
dominant positions.
At that time, in the 1780s, the state of Maryland put
up a new dome, or cupola, on its prerevolutionary state-
house in Annapolis, a city that housed Congress briefly
and hoped to be the new federal capital. An eight-sided,
multistoried architectural oddity, which has never been
successfully described, the cupola was built to dominate
the town. Attempts at classification have been mired in
descriptions of style: the cupola has been called, among

TheMaryland Statehouse,Annapolis.Thecornerstonewas laidin 1772,
the towerdomecompletedin the late 1780s. Courtesyof M.E.Warren,
photographer,and the HistoricAnnapolisFoundation.

other things, Chinese Chippendale, an awkwardly articu-

lated Federal period architectural device, John Shaw's
masterpiece (Shaw, a famous Annapolis cabinetmaker,
had built the dome), and an attempt to show that the state
now dominated the nearby (Anglican) Episcopal church.
On each of the eight sides of this dome-tower, there are
four ranks of windows on different stories. The windows
look out, down, and along the eight radiating streets and
paths that approach the capital building. My notion is that
the tower is, in effect, the centerpiece of a panopticon,
built on a grand scale. (See Figures 1 and 2.)
The panopticon of Jeremy Bentham, most famous as
a model prison, was a multisided, domed building in which
all inmates were visible from one central position, from
which all could be observed, but in which no inmate could
see any other. Foucault (1979), to whom I owe much of
this argument, shows that the inmate of the panopticon
TheStoddertsurveyof Annapolis,1718, as redoneby Callahanin 1743.
was always to imagine him- or herself being seen, which
The statehouse is locatedon a hilltopin the lowerleft-handedge of the inculcated a self-conscious self-observation. Within this
largercircle. Courtesyof the MarylandState Archives,SPECIAL COL- panoptic self-observation, I believe, is the historically ear-
LECTIONS (MarylandState ArchivesMapCollection)[MSASC 1427- lier Renaissance notion that a person who is defined as an
1-501]. individual is also visible, because he or she is worthwhile

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by him- or herself. The baroque state did not focus on the ology of class structure. In Baltimore, Benjamin LaTrobe
crowd but on the eyes of the person who saw him- or and his fellow Federal architects built a set of novel and
herself as an individual, and it used the rules of perspec- successful buildings in the Federal Era. A centrally domed
tive to draw the attention of those eyes, person by person, cathedral for the Catholics, a centrally domed adjacent
to the state. Baroque planning requires that both ends of church for the Unitarians, a similar one for the Baptists, a
the hierarchy see themselves as worthy of attention, and domed operating theater for the newly established Uni-
the notion of the individual (Rowe 1966), particularly at versity of Maryland medical school, a jailhouse intended
the middle and lower levels of society, allowed this. to be panoptic, and (as Silas Hurrypointed out to me) the
Foucault explained that in the imagination of the first monument dedicated to George Washington, a tower
18th- and 19th-century citizen is an obligation to watch over the whole city. These buildings help to define the
and also to feel watched, to monitor and be monitored, to connections among the archaeology of urban planning
safeguard and be safeguarded, to care and be cared for. and the democracy proposed for the new country. (See
Only people who see themselves as individuals can imag- Figures 3-8.)
ine themselves this way. The notion of the individual is These buildings were planned and built as celebra-
thus fundamental both to baroque and panoptic building tions of democracy. Together, they explicitly declare a
plans. unity with republican Rome and a distance from baroque
I turn now to the city of Baltimore, at the northern notions of hierarchy. They were intended to single out
end of the Chesapeake Bay, which became a major center each citizen and to invite each one into a democratic
of trade, population, and wealth during the Federal Era society; they also invited each citizen to monitor all the
and promoted itself as an American center (the Star Span- rest. They were built by reforming, victorious republicans
gled Banner was created there, in all senses). Baltimore is who voted, fought, spoke, taxed themselves, and elected
important to my argument: it shows a three-way link each other, living out these practices in the buildings they
between Foucault's technologies of power, the definition built. Within these buildings, citizens acknowledged the
of democracy within capitalism, and the historical archae- gaze of the leader to whom they said they could liken

Exteriorof BenjaminLaTrobe'sRomanCatholiccathedralin Baltimore(1808-21). Courtesyof HABS,Libraryof Congress[HABSMD4-BALT41-1

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4-BALT112-6 MD184].

themselves for a vote, a fee, a secular prayer, or any other other way, How were races kept unequal, women further
rational token of admission. subordinated, and minorities and classes reproduced?
As buildings, they embodied and facilitated a panop- Panoptic gazes existed within prisons as well as in
tic gaze. In semicircular rows under low domes, rooms homes, hospitals, insane asylums, churches, schools and
lighted with large glass windows allowed people to see libraries, and forts and mines, all of which were designed
and hear each other. Over all of them, Washington gazed for surveillance. John Cotter (Cotter et al. 1988) exca-
down and out over the city's center of population. The vated the 1760s Philadelphia prison workshop and found
Washington column, built about 1820, was visible every- the remains of the craft shops used there to teach prison-
where, like the tower of the Marylandstatehouse. A great ers to reform themselves by learning useful trades. He
urban space, filled with houses and called Mt. Vernon explained not only the details of craft manufacture but
Square, was built to surround it. The column had a dome also the reason that craft shops could be found in prisons.
room at its base for meetings, and people regularly It was the idea of the self-disciplined citizen, the produc-
climbed to the top of the hollow column. tive reproducer of society, that was ultimately responsible
The people of Baltimore were citizens of an unstable for the manufacturing debris Cotter found. The tea service
state marked by high alcohol consumption, low church Noel Hume found in the insane asylum at Williamsburg
attendance, and a degraded family structure (Smith 1985; probably functioned like the violin now on exhibit in the
Smithsonian Institution 1985). They lived through the re- same building. The purpose of these objects was to intro-
bellions that marked the early republic. Nonetheless, their duce ordered behavior into disordered minds. They pro-
question, which is also Morgan's and mine, was and is, duced (or were thought to produce) structured behavior
How was the peace to be kept? Why did people work in lives disrupted by its absence. The techniques, or disci-
under these multiple gazes? Or, to put the question an- plines, associated with them defined normal behavior as

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260 * VOL. 97, NO. 2 . JUNE 1995

Figure 7

the result of internalized self-discipline, which was some of the ways in which a wage-labor society ensures
learned or reawakened through the use of material arti- its own reproduction.
facts in panoptic institutions exercising surveillance over Toothbrushes, lead pencils, mirror fragments, forks,
those thought to exhibit fringe behavior: criminals, chil- serving dishes for specialized sauces, condiments, and
dren, students, the mentally ill, the sick, and others. faunal fragments of the meal attest to the techniques for
Dishes, cooking utensils, toiletries, and other utilitar- self-surveillance that we associate with the new state.
ian wares are found in all panoptic environments, includ- Foucault's hypothesis requires large amounts of small
ing homes. The etiquette or discipline associated with pieces of data from historical archaeology in order to be
eating is like that associated with writing, time telling, or persuasive. Those data exist in the objects, inventories,
any other routine. Paul Shackel (1993) argues that as and buildings we find in historical archaeology. Through
individuals learn rules for eating, they teach, monitor, archaeology, we may be able to find combined in them
judge, and correct each other by using the rules supplied both the panoptic gaze of the state and the self-directed
for the tasks. The self-discipline or technology of the self gaze of the citizen-individual.
seen in table behaviors, as in cooking, serving, and waste Historical archaeology can identify many charac-
disposal, constitute ways of self-maintenance. People teristics of panoptic buildings. It is not difficult to describe
who are taught that they are individuals internalize the then~ They usually have observation platforms which are
gaze directed at them by others and learn to fix it upon isolated and isolating, equal-size rooms, lots of doors,
themselves consistently as they use these items. Self- opaque exterior windows or windows that look out only
watching is the mark of the citizen; if successfill, it exacts on confined and defined spaces, semicircular rows of
work and prevents rebellion. The toilet training and table seats, circular rooms, and places where each solitary
manners of people who see themselves as individuals are member can see and be seen centrally by one person.

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Unlike baroque buildings and landscapes, which com-

mand attention through the use of vistas and cupolas but
do not return it, truly panoptic buildings facilitate a two-
way gaze. Panoptic institutions thus command the enfran-
chised citizen, not the monarchic subject; the citizen is
commanded to watch him- or herself precisely because he
or she is the theoretical locus of the state's authority.
Although the gargantuan scale of the buildings in Wash-
ington, D.C. probably lessens their effectiveness, the cir-
cles and Capitol, the obelisk of the Washington Monu-
ment, and Lincoln's own gaze from his memorial create a
panoptic landscape. This is not a late baroque city, as is
often claimed, but a panoptic one. And certainly the com-
bination of bureaucracy and media in Washington leaves
little doubt about its watchful effect.
I propose, however, an underlying continuity be-
tween the two theories of power utilized in the
Chesapeake area under European and American settle-
ment. Both produced buildings designed to preserve hier-
archy. I would argue that there is no significant difference
between the political intent of the governor's palace at
Williamsburgor the public buildings in St. Mary'sCity, and
the later Federal-period buildings in Annapolis. We know
that baroque city planners created radiating streets to
direct an individual's gaze at a wished-for center of power,
but obedience was produced only in a person who identi-
fied him- or herself as an individual. Thus the act of being
summoned by the state reproduced an individualist ideol- Figure8
ogy. We also know that baroque institutions were failing Cross-section,MaximilianGodefroy'sFirstUnitarianChurchof Balti-
to sustain stable hierarchies by the 1760s; in fact, they more (1818). Courtesyof the FirstUnitarianChurchof Baltimoreand
its congregation;photographfromthe Peale Museum,Baltimore[MC
collapsed in the 1770s and 1780s. Baltimore and Washing-
ton are not only experiments in building, they are also
experimental replacements for baroque institutions. In
these cities, the new federal democracy came into being, poverty in the past, thus linking past impoverishment to
which made the notion of the citizen-individual under a its continuation in the present.
self-sustaining panoptic gaze its ideological centerpiece. In our work we have been guided by Lukacs, who
Thus, though the theory of power used at Wil- defined the historian's job to be standing up against capi-
liamsburg and Annapolis was baroque, and the one used talism. Our concern is with class maintenance; Foucault's
at Baltimore and Washington was panoptic, several mate- theories of discipline and surveillance specify the points
rial reasons encourage an argument that their purpose at which power is applied in the material culture of every-
was the same. By 1720 a class structure had been created day lives. In the 1980s, we worked out Foucauldian inter-
in the Chesapeake region in which a few families con- pretations of the Annapolis city plan and the Federal
trolled most of the wealth, along with the local courts and period rules for orderly eating and punctuality (Leone et
elective offices.13 This group of gentry had reduced poorer al. 1987). Archaeologists, trained by a theater producer
whites, Native Americans, and African Americans to an who was an expert at presenting neighborhood histories,
impoverished class, as Terry Eppersen (1990a, 1990b) has delivered these interpretations on tours of Annapolis ar-
pointed out, and relied upon racism to inhibit conscious- chaeological sites. The tours were very popular through-
ness of economic status from becoming a basis for politi- out the city, but as far as I can tell, they changed con-
cal unity. The American Revolution fixed these classes in sciousness not at all (Potter and Leone 1992).
place; it did not alter their relationship. A historical ar- The popularity of these tours, however, was helpful
chaeology concerned with capitalism, investigating the to us; we needed the city's support for protecting archae-
roots of those who have been denied pasts and explaining ological sites that are, after all, the city residents' own
why they are here now in the condition in which they find property. But we also realized that, as far as social change
themselves, could use the organization of these cities' was concerned, we were speaking to the wrong audience.
streets to show how the exercise of power maintained For a historical archaeology of capitalism to be possible,

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262 AMERICAN . VOL. 97, NO. 2 . JUNE1995

there would have to be dialogue with those who see tings no different from any others; that they made selec-
knowledge about themselves as a way of dealing with tive use of white-dominated markets; that they had an
their own oppression or victimization. This conclusion, established African American cuisine; and that African
though not taken from Habermas, is supported by his Americans used some items in symbolic ways that were
analysis of discourse among potential equals. Since any different from white usage. Archaeological evidence
kind of archaeology occurs in a local setting, it need not shows negotiation between classes about class identities
be difficult to identify living people who want to know through the different use of knickknacks, wild foods, and
more about a past they see in some way as their own. Such mass-produced national brands (Mullins and Wamer
engagement creates questions that may have archaeologi- 1993). Integration into and resistance to the market oc-
cal answers. Byron Rushing, well known in historical curred simultaneously. A persecuted people strategically
archaeology for sponsoring excavations at the early-19th- maintained cultural integrity. Thus there is now some
century African Meeting House on Beacon Hill in Boston history of African Americans in a city where their histori-
(Bower et al. 1984), has pointed out that black people cal presence has long been implicitly denied.
want to know how they got to be here now. White people, There is ample opportunity to connect buildings,
on the other hand, do not want such knowledge. street plans, and artifacts with the exercise of panoptic
In Annapolis, then, we began dialogues with two surveillance. Alley dwellings, which are rows of houses
African Americans who were in charge of the Banneker built inexpensively and often rented to African Ameri-
Douglass Museum, the State of Maryland's Center for cans, exist inside as many as a dozen of the city's blocks
Afro-American History and Culture. Our dialogue part- (Hannah Jopling, personal communication, 1994). They
ners had three questions for us as archaeologists. Was were built when block interiors no longer held stables and
there, indeed, any way to tell whether archaeological large gardens. From period photographs it is clear that the
material was associated with African Americans? Did they State House cupola looked down on and could be seen
have a share in the record? What would an African Ameri- from their yards. Gott's Court held 25 such houses in two
can historical archaeology look like? We ourselves had to rows, backed up to the rear of the city jail. Residents thus
admit we did not know the answers. could look directly into the jail yard, as their oral histories
Our African American colleagues also told us they tell us: "Wellwe used to climb up on the fence and boxes
were sick of hearing about slavery. That topic was well or chairs or whatever to see the prisoners ... when they
understood by black people, who found it demeaning and would come out in the yard." No one remembers seeing a
degrading. Not all black people were descended from hanging, although there is folklore about earlier hangings
slaves, after all; nor was slavery the only condition black of black people: "But I heard people in there hollering"
people had ever known. What about conditions in free- (Jopling n.d.).
dom, before and after emancipation? In addition, since In 1994 we completed a large excavation immediately
African heritage is prized among many African Americans behind the county courthouse, which has a tower and jail,
but difficult to identify because of the conditions of the and beside its neighbor, the African Methodist Episcopal
diaspora, they wanted to know whether African material Church. A six-house row squeezed in behind them was
culture had left any remains in the ground. These ques- occupied by African Americans at the turn of the century.
tions, formulated in 1988, redirected the work we were All of these people were living within a few feet of surveil-
doing at many sites in Annapolis. As a result, we recovered lance institutions. Some were paternal institutions, no
many unique artifacts and patterns of use, were able to doubt, but some were punitive, and that is apanoptic mix.
give very different public presentations of archaeology to The historical integrity of African Americans is dem-
visitors, and sponsored the first oral history done by onstrated through the archaeological recovery, at the
archaeologists in Annapolis. We were also able to give Charles Carroll of Carrollton house, of a deposit, dated
positive answers to our dialogue partners' three ques- 1790-1810, of rock crystals, pierced coins, pierced bone
tions. discs, and other items used in traditional West African
Neighborhoods where African Americans lived from divination activities (Logan 1991). Though the materials
the 19th century through World War II are available ar- were probably local, John Vlach and Gladys Marie Fry
chaeologically beneath city parking lots and United States (personal communications, 1991) have pointed out that
Naval Academy lawns.14A significant number of houses, these objects not only were used in West African prac-
yards, and currently open spaces in the city once con- tices, but have been found throughout the American
tained African American housing, which is still intact Southeast in sites associated with enslaved Africans. Nar-
archaeologically under many surfaces (Logan 1991). A ratives by former enslaved Africans describe a world of
third of the population of Annapolis is and has been spirits inhabiting most of reality that, with a specialist's
African American, and there are several neighborhoods help, could be used to cure sickness, wreak revenge, gain
where free black people lived both before and after the power, tell fortunes, and ensure personal safety. Thou-
Civil War. Their artifacts show that they used table set- sands of artifacts, including blue beads, fractured de-

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canter tops, buttons, sherds, and white bones, compose means of changing it. In these paradigms, consciousness
deposits at hundreds of southeastern sites; they tell of a is the vehicle for social change. Consequently, we must
religion (or religions) scarcely acknowledged by the white ask, Do the archaeological results of dialogue produce
plantation world. Through African-derived religions and consciousness of social conditions or promote demo-
cultural practices, enslaved Africans could partially ex- cratic participation in a previously isolated scientific
empt themselves from the colonizing world and from process? The answer, over time, is becoming yes. As a
white Christianity (Ferguson 1992). While these practices result of our own dialogues, we know far more about the
were originally West African, the American evidence resistance to capitalism's many ways of invading daily life.
shows that they were so varied and lasted so long that they We know that early African Americans used African reli-
can also be productively thought of as African American. gious practices and distinctive ways of hunting, fishing,
A dialogue has thus begun between white archaeolo- eating, and feasting to avoid some forms of domination.
gists and African Americans, both of whom have defined We connect these, using the work of Eugene Genovese
themselves, in varied conversations, as professionals, in- (1974) and Barbara Fields (1985), to forms of African
formants, gatekeepers, facilitators, scholars, equals, stu- American resistance that were expressed as feigned igno-
dents, outsiders, fund-raisers, contributors, andssome- rance, pretended forgetfulness, and posed irresponsibil-
times and with discomfortssubordinates, ignorant but ity. Thus, even apparently innocuous behaviors can serve
willing to learn, to be lectured to and, occasionally, to be as an antidote to the kind of exploitation capitalism has
laughed and yelled at. The dialogue has been productive created in the world of European advance since 1450.
for whites, who have made a long-term commitment to The dialogue has produced a comprehensive descrip-
consult with blacks before excavation and to listen atten- tion of African American sites in the city. We have eluci-
tively when blacks propose questions that might have dated the differences between the ceramics, glass, and
answers in archaeology and oral history. In addition, the faunal remains in sites occupied by groups of African and
Historic Annapolis Foundation, one of the sponsors of Euro-Americans. Just as important is the loose alliance
Archaeology in Annapolis, has agreed to raise major fund- the dialogue has created among white archaeologists and
ing for the restoration of a mid-19th-century house built their sponsors, and several different groups of African
by a free black family, making it into a historic house Americans, some of whom are activists for poor people.
museum. Thus, some historical consciousness has been created
Displays of African American archaeological and among some people, and some alliances have been
documentary material, along with presentations of oral formed. Some quite profound knowledge of others has
history, have been experienced by well over 10,000 people been created, although its social and political use has yet
from the black and white communities of Annapolis. Afri- to be determined. There are several independent voices
can Americans sustain effectively their political claims now speaking for pasts never before known to plural
that they have ground to protect, heritage to manage, audiences.
knowledge to gain about African American pasts, and Of particular importance for the position I am outlin-
many students to be taught or trained. As stakeholders, ing is the interchange that occurs at the point of estab-
they press for a share of the power of the historic preser- lishing truth values. American archaeologists have only
vation community. just begun to accept the constructivist view of knowledge,
which implies that data are not neutral (Wylie 1989a,
1992b). We are not at all accustomed to the idea of nego-
Consequences for HistoricalArchaeology tiating truth values with nonarchaeologists who are af-
fected by our work. However, such negotiating does not
The scientific literature alone will not sustain histori- debase archaeology, even though archaeologists may,
cal archaeology in its studies of European expansion and from time to time, get pushed around some by the mem-
the culture of capitalism. Several kinds of helpful knowl- bers of the communities in which they work. The eventual
edge may be produced by dialogues with those who might result will be a much richer archaeology. It will produce
otherwise be subject to archaeology. Such dialogues pro- not a single interpretation of data, but many interpreta-
vide important research questions while creating a link tions; not one uniformly useful literature, but many incom-
between present and past and involve the sorts of mutual mensurable literatures. Thus archaeological data can
knowledge that form a part of a community's political life. have value, not only for professionals but for people
A conception of historical archaeology that assumes whose identity and class positions are affected by what
the importance of class differences, pays attention to archaeologists do and think about the past.
community direction, and investigates the kind of exploi- This is an uncomfortable but a good place to be. One
tation endemic to capitalism makes political involvement has to continually negotiate the value of research and
unavoidable. But we can also assume, with Lukacs and continually form alliances, while at the same time reestab-
Habermas, that understanding capitalism may provide a lishing one's own intellectual and institutional inde-

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264 AMERICAN * VOL. 97, NO. 2 . JUNE1995

pendence. This process is likely to produce a better un- 3. See Eco 198611967]; Grossberg et aL 1992; During 1993;
derstanding of some remains from the past; it will cer- Foley 1990; Newman 1988; Varenne 1993; Deming 1988; Passer-
tainly produce understandings of the past that satisfy ini 1987; Messick 1993; and Connerton 1989.
4. See Foley 1990 and Rappaport 1988,1990, 1994.
archaeology's constituents. Those communities include
not only archaeologists and anthropologists but also peo- 5. Important books and articles include Shanks and Tilley
1987a, 1987b; Barrett 1988; Hodder 1982, 1986; and Johnson
ple whose identities are affected by what is said about 1993.
their pasts. The results can include some understanding
6. Important articles and books include Paynter 1983;
of our society as a profit-oriented, class-based one that McGuire 1989, 1992; Wylie 1985, 1989b, 1990, 1991, 1992a;
routinely uses many means of marginalization to achieve Handsman 1980, 1981; McMullins and Handsman 1987; Patter-
its ends. Certainly it illuminates the extent to which Ed- son 1986; Potter 1994; Gero et al. 1983; Gero and Conkey 1991;
mund Morgan was correct when he said that poverty is Orser 1988; Spector 1993; Shackel 1991;BarbaraLittle 1994;and
essential to American democracy. If our society is based Leone 1978, 1981a, 1981b, 1983.
on a hierarchy that requires the enslavement or impover- 7. See Habermas 1970, 1979, 1984 and Kemp 1988.
ishment of some, then how and through what means is this 8. See, for example, Layton 1988, 1989; Shennan 1989; and
hierarchy reproduced? A historical archaeology of capi- Gathercole and Lowenthal 1990.
talism can offer its knowledge to those who want to know 9. Important works include Carr and Jordan 1974; Carr and
Walsh 1980, 1988; Carr et al. 1988; Tate and Ammerman 1979;
how we and they got to be where we are now. But it can
and Carson et al. 1993.
also form alliances with those same people, to challenge
10. On Jamestown, see Cotter 1958, Cotter and Hudson 1957;
the oppression that falls unevenly on us all and bring on Colonial Williamsburg, see Noel Hume 1963,1983; on Historic
about reforms. St. Mary's City, see Miller 1986, 1988, Stone 1974.
11. See Leone 1984,1987; Leone and Shackel 1990;and Leone
and Little 1993.
12. See Russo n.d.; see also Fields 1985;Ives 1979; and Leone
Notes and Shackel 1987.
13. See Isaac 1982; Walsh 1983; Russo n.d.; Leone 1987; and
Acknowledgments. This article was presented to the Archeol- Shackel 1993.
ogy Division at the 92nd Annual Meeting of AAA as a lecture 14. See Cox and Seidel 1994; Cox et al. 1994; Bodor et al. 1993;
titled "Visionand the Human Landscape: Approaches to Site and Goodwin et al. 1993; Warner 1992; Warnerand Mullins 1993;and
Sight." Paul Mullins, Thomas Patterson, and Robert Paynter Logan 1991.
have read this essay several times and have made detailed
written comments on several drafts. Each has helped make the
essay more coherent, focused, and defined. Jean-Paul Dumont References Cited
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