Material culture, social networks, and the Chinese of Ouray, Colorado, 1880-1920

Knee, Alexis Ryan, author
Van Buren, Mary, advisor
Orsi, Jared, committee member
Snodgrass, Jeffrey, committee member
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This study examines a sample of artifacts recovered from the Vanoli Site (5OR30) encompassing a privy and trash midden located directly behind an historic Chinese laundry. Previous research in Overseas Chinese archaeology has focused on historically large Chinese communities and processes of acculturation, resulting in a homogenous perception of past Overseas Chinese experiences. The purpose of this project is to explore the small, historic Chinese community of Ouray, Colorado, and work to understand their past experiences in terms of social interaction rather than acculturation. Borrowing concepts from social network theory, artifacts recovered from behind the Chinese laundry drive the reconstruction of past social relationships. When these relationships are placed within the context of Ouray and the United States at the time, they can lead to an understanding of past experiences. Quantitative analyses included organizing artifacts by material type, stylistic traits, function and minimum number of items. The production, acquisition and use contexts were also determined for artifacts when possible. Using historical sources, qualitative analyses began with researching the local context of Chinese living in Ouray and the attitudes of Ouray residents towards them. The social meanings of activities associated with excavated artifacts were understood within the contexts of China, the United States and Ouray at the time. These contexts, combined with identified patterns in the assemblage drove the reconstruction of several possible past social relationships. These relationships reveal that Chinese living in Ouray likely shared many of the same experiences as Chinese living in larger communities, specifically negative experiences stemming from racism and labor discrimination. However, they also likely had experiences that were unique to Ouray and were not completely dependent on ethnicity. Rather, a combination of factors, including occupation, place of business and residence, social status (within Chinese and Euroamerican communities), personal relationships, and wealth, seem to have had a more meaningful impact on experiences and whether those experiences were positive or negative. This was likely the case for most people living in the area. This study suggests that a close examination of local and historical contexts combined with archaeological evidence is necessary to illuminate Overseas Chinese experiences, and in doing such, could alter current perceptions of early Asian American history.
2012 Summer.
Includes bibliographical references.
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Chinese in Colorado
Chinese brown glazed stoneware
Chinese in Ouray
Chinese social networks
historical archaeology
overseas Chinese
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