Making the West: Approaches to the Archaeology of Prostitution on the 19th-Century Mining Frontier
AuthorVermeer, Andrea Christine
AdvisorReid, J. Jefferson
Committee ChairReid, J. Jefferson
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractProstitution has recently received increased attention in historical archaeology, but studies pertaining to this topic have been driven by artifacts instead of theory and therefore have been unable to address broader social and economic issues, as is the goal of the field. The approach developed here moves significantly toward this goal in the study of prostitution in the 19th-century mining West.World-systems theory is established as an organizing framework for the study of prostitution in the mining West, a vital internal periphery of the United States and a site of sudden, intense cultural collision due to the expansion of the capitalist world-economy. Prostitution is situated within the context of women's informal labor in peripheries to demonstrate how prostitutes supported formal labor in the mining West and therefore contributed to the maintenance and reproduction of capitalism.The archaeological approach attends to the cultural collision by recognizing gender, ethnicity, and class as active, interacting, and shifting constructions emphasized to assign oneself or others as appropriate to spaces, activities, or interactions and seeking to identify processes of identity formation through manipulated behaviors and symbols. It additionally calls for archaeologists to look at how each construction organized society through the other two.The approach concludes with the development of relevant research questions under the headings of negotiating with and navigating around Victorianism. The former attempt to understand the range of experiences of prostitutes in a way that listens to the "voices" of both prostitutes and Victorians, i.e., through a negotiation, to better realize the personal agency of prostitutes. The latter relate to the labor and economic contributions of prostitutes to the capitalist world-economy, to better recognize and understand their historical agency.Implementation of the approach occurs through its application to recently excavated data from a red-light district in late 19th-century Prescott, Arizona. The results demonstrate that the historical-archaeological study of mining-West prostitution, with the benefit of organizing theory, has excellent potential for providing information on economic processes surrounding an important form of women's labor in a periphery and on social processes that characterized an intercultural-frontier periphery associated with a hegemonic Victorian core.