Voss 2005 - The archaeology of Overseas Chinese communities...

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Unformatted text preview: The archaeology of Overseas Chinese communities Barbara L. Voss Abstract Archaeological research on Overseas Chinese communities has expanded rapidly during the last twenty years, yet the subfield still remains marginal within historical archaeology as a whole. This article argues that a dominance of acculturation theories and methodologies has contributed to this marginal position. Further, a persistent research focus on the ethnic boundary between Chinese and non-Chinese and the portrayal of Overseas Chinese communities as resolutely traditional have curtailed the range of research topics investigated at Overseas Chinese sites. Community-focused collaborative research on the Market Street Chinatown in San Jose ´ , California, provides an alternative perspective. Historical and archaeological evidence suggests that the community’s residents did not always experience their lives through oppositions between East and West or between tradition and modernity. By embracing a broader research agenda, investigations of Overseas Chinese communities can make significant contributions to archaeological studies of race, ethnicity, gender, immigration, labor and social inequality. Keywords Overseas Chinese; acculturation theory; modernity; race and ethnicity; immigration; identity; community archaeology. Hundreds of thousands of southern Chinese left their homelands in the nineteenth century, creating a vast diaspora that spans the globe. Most came from Kwangtung, a province devastated by the British Opium War (1839–42) and the TaiPing Rebellion (1851–64). Constant warfare brought famine, poverty and epidemic disease to the region. Chinese immigrants left their impoverished villages to seek employment overseas and to create new business ventures. By the 1860s, significant populations of Chinese immigrants were established throughout much of North America, Peru, the West Indies, Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia. Archaeologists were initially slow to conduct research at Overseas Chinese sites. More attention was given to Chinese-produced objects found in non-Chinese contexts than to the history and culture of Chinese people themselves. This began to change in the 1970s, World Archaeology Vol. 37(3): 424–439 Historical Archaeology ª 2005 Taylor & Francis ISSN 0043-8243 print/1470-1375 online DOI: 10.1080/00438240500168491 and today Overseas Chinese archaeology is one of the most rapidly growing subfields in historical archaeology. A review of the excavation and laboratory reports, articles, edited volumes and interpretative booklets produced during the past thirty years of archaeological research at Overseas Chinese sites reveals two troubling but persistent trends. The first is the marginalization of Overseas Chinese studies within historical archaeology. The second is a recurring archaeological interpretation of Overseas Chinese populations as traditional, bounded ethnic groups that resisted acculturation into the non-Chinese populations among whom they lived. These two distinct trends – one disciplinary, one interpretative –among whom they lived....
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This note was uploaded on 02/14/2011 for the course ANTHRO 2/AC taught by Professor Wilkes during the Spring '09 term at Berkeley.

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Voss 2005 - The archaeology of Overseas Chinese communities...

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