ANTH 3420 Urban Archaeology OER

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Week 9: Constructing Hegemonic Genders in Urban America

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    Kelly M Britt

    These three articles look at gender in urban spaces. Compare the types of data that was used in analysis for the readings and the type of analysis that could be gathered from this data. On one side-What are the limitations to the data? On the other-What are the deep insights that can be gleamed from them?


    Jaeden Granger

    Diana Di Zerega Wall’s Sacred Dinners and Secular Teas: Constructing Domesticity in Mid-19th-Century New York discusses the economic and consumer differences between upper and lower-class women in mid-19th century Greenwich Yillage. Bryn Williams’s Chinese Masculinities and Material Culture discusses how the behavior and activities of Chinese men in 19th century Chinatown in San Jose, California has an effect on material culture. Rebecca Yamin’s Wealthy, Free, and Female: Prostitution in Nineteenth-Century New York­ discusses the exploitation and effects of prostitution in 19th century New York.

    The information from these documents comes from the 19th century, where archaeology was limited in terms of the practices and the tech that they had at the time, as well as the data they could feasibly obtain. The documents do however work with what they had at the time to conduct their research, and the research is fairly detailed.

    Both Wall, William and Yamin use relics and materialized evidence like porcelain to observe consumerism in their respectable locations of study. The research also shows the economic and social-class differences by showcasing what type of decorative materials would be bought, even from which part of the location sites would be bought.


    Denille Samuel

    This week’s readings were interesting, all three readings had a connection they all analyzed the symbolic uses behind the use of certain kinds of ceramic eating and drinking vessels among other objects. In the article by Diana Wall the ceramics used by the upper and lower middle class were analyzed and provided information on how women formed their domestic and commercial life using ceramics. The question in the Wall article was whether these women of upper and lower middle class were constructing the same kinds of domestic worlds using certain materials. I believe there was a definitive answer to this question because both classes of women used their ceramics to feed their families as well as entertain although, the Robsons (50 Washington Square South) did have a separate set of ceramic ware to entertain their guest with (due to them being middle class at the upper end of the scale). In the Rebecca Yamin’s article prostitutes used ceramics as a performance piece as a way of putting on class to entertain middle class men and make a living for themselves. In the Bryan Williams article Chinese masculinity or Chinese masculinity according to a western view was called into question and ceramics played a part in helping form hegemonic western thought of the masculinity of Chinese men, although, Chinese men felt pride in the use of these ceramic vessels.

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    Reflection #9

    These three articles look at gender in urban spaces. Compare the types of data that was used in analysis for the readings and the type of analysis that could be gathered from this data. On one side-What are the limitations to the data? On the other-What are the deep insights that can be gleamed from them?

    The first article is “Sacred Dinners and Secular Teas,” by Diana Di Zerega Wall. It focuses on how two different middle class groups in Greenwich Village in the mid-19th century defined domesticity. One excavation was at 50 Washington Square South and the other was at 25 Barrow Street. At Barrow Street, archaeologists found ceramics made out of ironstone and plain porcelain, which indicated the site as on the poorer end of the middle class. At the other site, they found gilded and pedestaled cups and saucers, among other things, which led the archaeologists to identify the site as being on the richer end of the middle class spectrum. The article is about how women at the opposite ends of the middle class defined domesticity. The richer family had two sets of dishes: one was similar to what the poorer family used on a day-to-day basis and is probably what the richer family used the set for as well. The second set was of a higher quality of the material used and had more decoration. That set was more likely to have been used to entertain important guests. The author concluded that the poorer family might have invited only family or people like family over to eat on the dishes, that they put more of a preference on the food and act of eating itself. The author states that for most of the middle class the mere act of socializing was worth much more than the value of the crockery the food was served on.

    The author used various types of data, including a diary, census records and tax records to find family names and get an idea how much homes and estates are worth. She used data derived from papers published by fellow archaeologists about the excavation. The excavation data was limited to only two sites with excavations in their associated cistern and privy. This is where the families would dump their broken things. This means that what was found would be biased toward breakable household goods. The fact that the artifacts were found in middens means that there isn’t an exact way to separate artifacts among the different families that lived there before the middens were sealed. In fact, at least one of the middens had artifacts from two to three different families mixed together. The artifacts can give and intimate picture into family life. The Barrow Street midden had discarded remains of three dolls indicating that at least one of the families living there had young daughters. As for the tax and census records, it gives an idea of who was living there, and an approximate idea of their monetary worth. It doesn’t have any personal details, like their relationships to each other or, before 1850, the names of all the people in the household.

    The second article is “Chinese Masculinities and Material Culture,” by Bryn Williams. The author tries to study the masculinity of 19th century Chinese men in America by looking at artifacts recovered during an urban renewal excavation in 1985-1986 at a former site of San Jose’s Chinatown. Most of the Chinese men were in the United States without wives. The artifacts had little context due to lax recovery procedures and included mostly tableware. The author also looked at photo of the temple of a descendant community as well as contemporary news articles and modern scientific papers and books about the Chinese immigrants. The author mentions hegemonic masculinity and looks at two aspects of Chinese masculinity. First is the orientalist Chinese masculinity, basically how Americans incorrectly interpreted Chinese masculinity. Many of the Chinese men wore traditional Chinese clothes which confused white Americans because the clothes were similar to what American women wore. Also Chinese men wore their hair in a queue, a long braid, very different from American male hairstyles. The Chinese also took jobs in the urban centers that white women traditionally did, like washing clothes. American’s incorrect ideas of Chinese masculinity inspired, in my opinion, utterly racist “yellowface” minstrel shows, film and theater, which helped spread such ideas to the rest of the country. Chinoiserie, once a status symbol, later became associated with Chinese masculinity or supposed lack thereof. Majority of pottery recovered at the site was in the chinoiserie style. True Chinese masculinity had dual qualities—Win & Wu. Win is gentle and refined, including art and classics. Wu refers to strength and wisdom. It was preferable for Chinese men to have both qualities.

    While the artifacts were useful in showing what types of crockery the Chinese immigrants used, it wasn’t really applicable to the masculinity discourse and that is in addition to the fact that the artifacts lacked context. The photo that the author included in the article wasn’t useful in illustrating her point. What was useful were the various journals that she used.

    The third article is about a middle to high class brothel in the Five Points neighborhood of Manhattan in the early 19th century. Archaeologists excavated a midden on Baxter Street. Their purpose was to determine the standard of living the prostitutes enjoyed. They looked at the type of artifacts recovered, their quality. They also looked at census records for the period, which identified the number of people living there, as well as court records which related to the prosecution of the person allegedly running the brothel. The archaeologists also used information from a contemporary statistical work on prostitution published in 1858 by Dr. William Sanger. It appears that a large portion of the artifacts came from the closing of the brothel. They found the skeletal remains of three infants, but they are not sure if they were stillborn or victims of infanticide. Recovery of a child’s cup indicates there were children being raised on the site. They analyzed the motifs of the crockery to help determine how expensive the crockery was. The archaeologists were also able to recover food remains and in analyzing them found that it was cheap meat. Also recovered were tobacco pipes, believed to have been left by clients, and medicine bottles, purchased to deal with venereal disease and upset stomach, as well as sewing materials. The author compared the material found in the brothel midden with the midden of an upper middle class family to try to determine use patterns. The findings indicate that, when not entertaining clients, the prostitutes standard of living was quite similar to what one would find in the tenements. When entertaining, the prostitutes’ standard of living was similar to the upper middle class. They found that the prostitutes were essentially living dual lives.

    The findings were well supported by both the artifacts and the historical records. The author used the artifacts and the related documents to paint a concise picture of the general lifestyle of an early 19th century prostitute. The author only discussed topics that were supported by the evidence, either physical or contemporary or both. In my opinion, this article is the best supported by far of the three we read.

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    Andrew Poccia

    “Sacred Dinners and Secular Teas: Constructing Domesticity in Mid- 19th- Century New York” by  Diana Di Zerega Wall explores some findings from Greenwich Village homes dating back to around the mid 1800s. It is very fascinating to learn about the process of discovering some of the history of the pieces like the ones discussed in the article. The ones discussed in the article consist of some ceramic houseware pieces, a teacup and dish, as well as some dolls. Specific details on the artifacts including the patterns and materials used can reveal so much about who used them, what they were for used for, and even the wealth and social status of the people who owned those pieces. In this case, it was the comparison between items from different upper and lower class homes and the women who used these items.

    In Bryn Williams’ “Masculinities and Material Culture” he discusses the idea of men being the focus on aspects of material culture and how this affected their hegemonic position in society. For example, the artwork on drinking cups, as discussed in the article, that portray male figures put a certain emphasis on masculinity in society. This is an interesting discussion as something such as a drinking cup is a very commonly used item among all people and to have similar masculine style artwork on such items throughout the culture can definitely strike up a debate.

    Rebecca Yamin also discusses ideas surrounding the relationship between material culture and wealth status and the portrayal of that in society. More specifically among prostitutes during the 19th century in New York. For example, women would use different styles on items such as houseware depending on whether they were working in the brothel or for common use. Nicer items were used during their work for entertainment purposes and the cheapest of items were used for everyday use. These articles overall brought up some very interesting discussions about some of the different aspects of life in the 19th century and how we now discover some of the history behind them.



    Matthew Wojcik

    Perceptions on gender change over time, with different trends popping up as the years go by. What may seem as masculine in one time period will be different from another. What may seem feminine also will change over time. Time isn’t the only factor, however. Different cultures in different parts of the world have a variety of views on gender.

    Wall’s article brought up a point that economic factors always affected gender in the urban spaces. It was true back then, and it remains true to this very today. The wealthy can be more open about their gender identity, because they have privileged lives. A pop star, who has millions upon millions of dollars, can express themselves all they want. A person who works in a factory may think about putting food on the table first. A person from a privileged background can get into expensive colleges. These colleges offers places where the person can freely talk about their gender. A person from a less privileged background may not have a chance to get this sort of experience.

    William’s article brings up the point mentioned in my intro. Different cultures have different views on gender. And certain objects can be linked with gender. For the case of this article, it was ceramic plates. Every person has different life experiences within a culture. Therefore, their views on things, like gender, will be molded by the society around them.

    Yamins article ties in nicely with my economic argument, because as mentioned before economics play a role on how people view gender. The Industrial Revolution was a period of limited upward mobility. The poor tended to stay poor. The rich tended to stay rich. Of course, there were people like Rockefeller and Carnegie, who life storys play out like the American Dream. They are the exceptions of the rule, however. Many people were forced to work in factories to make a living. Others went to profession of prostitution. Economic factors affected their views on gender.


    The Three articles talk about gender and how class affects the way genders are viewed. The data used in the Wall article seems a bit lacking. The author even mentions that two sites aren’t enough to make a good case for how women socialize in different classes. I don’t think merely mentioning that there isn’t enough data makes it ok to continue on like it doesn’t matter. That being said, the article does make some interesting points, however speculative, even with the limited data. The one point about the difference in teaware for instance. The “richer” household has nicer teachers sets while the “pooper” one has less so but the author mentions that it might just be because in the southern Washington house team wasn’t as important socially even if she could afford a nicer set.


    The Williams article made some interesting points about the feminization of chinese mem in american culture. What I found interesting was the explanation on wen and wu and how wen represents a more proper and artistic attitude and wu is more miliraristic.


    The Yamin article has the best use of data in my opinion. It mentions the murder of the prostitute, the remuans of infants, the cup with the name on it, and the other materials and data collected from the brothel that closed. I think the author successfully proved that prostitutes were not as free as many believed and that society “squeezed” them as much as everyone else.



    nolcie pierre

    These three articles discuss how prevalent pieces of material culture can provide information about the socio-economic world of its participants in the 19 century.  Chinese Masculinity and Material Culture by Bryan Williams depicts the livelihood (or masculinity) of these Chinese men based on archaeological findings. In this piece he asses the in the United States is primarily the archaeology of Chinese men: their behaviors, dispositions, activities, and identities. I liked how Williams clarified that Chinese men were viewed from an orientalist perspective which identifies what lens we are looking at these artifacts with. “Orientalism [is]  a concept adapted from Edward Said (1979), is used here to describe the process whereby people and products from “the East” are not represented in Western culture on their own terms but are, instead, represented as a contrast to “the West”. Through this lens Chinese men were “emasculated” while women were “hyper-feminized” in U.S. Culture. Like the other 2 readings, ceramic and porcelain artifacts were heavily recovered which gives us an idea of a popularity timeline of porcelain and ceramic items and their socio-economic functions.

    “Sacred Dinners and Secular Teas: Constructing Domesticity in Mid-19th-century New York” by Diana Di Zerega Wall, addresses how ceramic artifacts from two cites in Greenwich village New York City are used to explore “whether women at the wealthier and poorer ends of the middle-class spectrum were using goods to construct similar or different domestic worlds in New York in the mid-19th century” (pp 1). Excavated from cisterns and privies what was found was porcelain cups and saucers that gave insight to the domesticity of women in the 19th century.

    Ceramics are also a connecting piece in the article “Wealthy, Free, and Female: Prostitution in Nineteenth Century New York” by Rebecca Yamin. Based on the archaeological findings from a stone privy near the Five point intersection, Housing many discreet brothels in the 19 century. In the assemblage were large numbers of pitchers, swerving dishes, small plates, etc. “The glass assemblage from Feature AG even more specifically reflects the activities of a brothel. Of 105 wine/liquor bottles recovered from AS III, 99 (94%) were for wine, five were for beer, and one was for whiskey. Hard liquor was generally not allowed in brothels because of its intoxicating properties” (pp 10). From the findings of the assemblage, Yamin summarizes that “This practice might have been one of the ways that the rigid rules of middle-class etiquette were broken in the brothel setting. Men not only got to indulge in alcohol and sex, but they were also liberated from the “ritual structure of dining” that prevailed at home (pp 10).

    These three authors were able to make these assessments using data collected previously before their own research began. It’s great to see how much was analyzed and interpreted regardless of whether they excavated it first hand or not.


    Kelly M Britt

    Nice work everyone!



    Blessing Tate

    Gender in Urban Spaces
    Wall (1991), uses ceramic material data to explore and understand the factors that the middle-class women living in Greenwich Village in New York City considered in making consumer decisions in the mid-19th century. The author utilizes the stylistic analysis method—focusing on decorative styles applied to the ceramic artifacts—to assess the data. Ceramic artifacts yield fruitful insights into patterned human behavior (economic, social, and cultural) of the past. Additionally, important insights concerning similarities and differences in behavior can be inferred—Wall was able to understand the similarities and differences with respect to consumer behaviors between wealthy and poor women who constructed and maintained domestic life in Greenwich Village in the mid-19th century as well as their varied cultural experiences. Nonetheless, the reconstruction of realistic models of past economic and social conditions and behaviors of the past using decorations and styles of ceramic vessels is not easy; it requires deep imagination and reliable hypothesis.
    William (2008), uses the material culture of the Chinese living in Market Street in Chinatown, San Jose, California in the 19th century to provide data for his study. He explores the concept of masculinities of the past among Chinese Americans. William typically uses the concept of dominant masculinities to develop a framework for the archaeological investigation of the relationship between material artifacts and historical discourse concerning masculinity. Accordingly, material culture provides insights into the non-material culture, including beliefs, ideas, values, and habits of the people. Nonetheless, there are dangers of misinterpretation, generalization or over-interpretation with the use of data from material culture. Generally, as with other archaeological data types, in-depth and cultural interpretation of material culture is needed to generate insightful information.
    Yamin (2005), uses various types of archaeological data to study prostitution ideology in the 19th century. She uses both intangible (associations) and material (ceramics and food remains) data in her exploration. The data drawn from the artifacts reveal insightful information concerning women who engaged in prostitution: their lifestyles, exploitation, and material well-being. Additionally, the artifacts reveal information concerning the difference in experiences between the wealthy and poor women who participated in prostitution. Nonetheless, interpreting such data is complex.

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