chapter  28
53 Pages

Archaeology of the modern state: European colonialism

WithJames A. Delle, Mark P. Leone, Paul R. Mullins

The historical archaeology of the modern state examines the various ways material culture is used by the state to generate and reproduce power over its essential creation, the individual. This intellectual enterprise analyses both the construction of the individual as a social unit and the ways power is mediated through the material relationships that exist between the modern state and this defined individual. The construction and reproduction of the individual within the state involves the interplay of two social mechanisms. First is the built environment which enables the state to command its subjects (defined as ‘citizens’ by the late eighteenth century). Second is a distinct social context which defines how that physical environment is experienced and successfully reproduced. This chapter examines a series of built environments, dating mainly from European colonial contexts, which illustrate how colonial and national states materially and socially reproduced their authority over the individual, whether as a subject or citizen. It is not our purpose here to offer a hegemonic definition either of historical archaeology or of the modern state. It is, rather, our goal to define a problem within the scholarly literature of historical archaeology, thereby unifying much otherwise scattered work done by archaeologists who conduct research on the modern era. We will thus not present an exhaustive survey of the canon of historical archaeology, but rather will examine a coherent research problem through which a set of objects and subjects will be seen more clearly. A further aim of ours is to show how archaeological knowledge can inform us on the creation and perpetuation of the state and its institutions.