The Construction of Urban Infrastructure and the Process of Governmentalization – Lecture by Prof. Matt Palus

Today, Prof. Matt Palus visited Annapolis and gave a lecture relating to his dissertation topic involving the use of infrastructure building by governments in order to organize the society to optimize its control and authority. Dr. Palus studied public utilities such as electrification, and enclosed sanitation within Annapolis and its surrounding suburb of Eastport.  Traditionally, archaeologists had not seen value in studying these modern conveniences as something that could answer questions about societal structure.

Dr. Palus contends that the government’s mandate for connection to public sanitation services, the discourse related to the improvement of public health, and the acceptance of the government directive by the citizenry constitutes ideology. According to Mancuse large systems such as these transform societies. The primary concern of the people becomes the maintenance of system. The apparatus becomes a form of control.

Additionally, Foucault’s theory of the creation of self-discipline by creating the sense being perpetually monitored is reinforced when the government becomes governmentalized is evident in the city where public services are controlled by the government and social statistics and the apparatus of security are applied.  The measures of the population, the functioning of the economy, and the maps of sewer lines are examples of such statistics. As for the apparatus of security, census takers, health officers, and those responsible for public works are seen as examples. The street lights and sewers themselves are seen as apparatuses of security and become the material culture of the government.

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Independent Study in the Archaeology in Annapolis Lab

For the past 2 semesters, I have been working in the Archaeology in Annapolis Lab in Woods Hall. This is my first year at Maryland, and I wanted to get a feel for the work being done in the archaeology department. Dr. Leone’s Archaeology in Annapolis program was a major factor in my decision to transfer to Maryland, so I welcomed the opportunity to get to work with the artifacts from previous field school sessions.

The other undergrad students and I were involved in multiple steps of processing the artifacts from washing, sorting/classifying, cataloging, labeling, mending, and completing a minimum vessel count. Many of the artifacts we worked with related to Kate Deeley’s research on African American communities in Annapolis. Kate helped us grasp the concept of minimum vessel counts and stressed the importance of each step in the process of labeling, mending, and identifying rims in order to determine the minimum count of vessels located within the site. This data, when used in conjunction with the ceramic types and other associated remains, creates a view into the lifeways and social status of the people that occupied the area. For example, one site yielded a large number of sherds of whiteware ceramics with nearly matching shell edge designs. They were similar in color and style, but not exact matches. This might lead to speculation that the people could not afford to purchase more expensive sets all at one time. However, you must be careful not to make assumptions based on any one interpretation of the artifacts. Having matched sets may represent status but, according to Kate, this could indicate that these particular residents were interested in putting together a set of these dishes, but not necessarily concerned that they be a perfectly matched set. That is just one of the many valuable lessons I learned in the Annapolis lab.

One of the unexpected benefits of working in the lab was the involvement of the PhD program student assistant directors. Kate, Beth, and Ben are a wealth of information and are always happy to give input and advice. They are intimately involved in the excavations and are utilizing this research for their PhD projects. The enthusiasm and generosity of everyone in the lab have really made me excited to join them this summer for a session in the field.