The Political Work of Memory in Collaborative Caribbean Archaeology
This dissertation addresses how descendants of the 19th century Millars Plantation on the southern end of Eleuthera, Bahamas use memory as a tool for community building and political action in the face of potentially exploitative economic development. In 1871, the last owner of the Millars Plantation left the estate in her will to the descendants of her former slaves and servants. That descendant community still upholds their right to this land today, although in recent years, a Bahamian developer has attempted to gain title to the acreage through the Bahamian courts. Community members and local island-based organizations have mobilized to record their local history as a way of demonstrating their continued occupation and use of the land, and thus their right to it.
The dissertation draws on Black Feminist epistemologies and community-based, participatory research frameworks to analyze the construction of a collective memory around the former Millars Plantation Estate. Using a combination of ethnographic and archaeological methods, the project explored how individuals and organizations negotiate a unique memoryscape that connects the historical and contemporary cultural landscapes of South Eleuthera. The analysis tracks several individuals and community groups as they define what it means to be from this place and of the Millars descendant community, and why those connections are so valuable in this moment of political and economic disruption. Finally, the dissertation argues that the memoryscape of South Eleuthera is a tool for community building in a region that has faced major economic shifts from agriculture to tourism development, and demographic transitions as young people increasingly depart the small island for more prosperous environments like Nassau and Freeport. In the process of creating this memoryscape, individuals and collectivities establish their place on the land and in Bahamian history as a way of defending themselves from political or economic exploitation.
Mapping Community History in the Bahamas
Community-based research and consultation
This project is the culmination of several years of ethnographic interviews and archaeological survey in Eleuthera, Bahamas, and collaboration with multiple local partners on the island. The goal was to create an accessible record and archive of oral histories, photos and maps that community members could use to share their history and culture with younger generations and aid in locally-determined development projects. This project pairs oral history, photography and GPS data on to publicly accessible maps (Google Earth, Streetview, and Google Tourbuilder).
Preliminary findings were presented at community meetings in South Eleuthera in June 2017. The project has culminated in an community history report for research partners on the island (including local schools and libraries, community associations and non-profits) and the general public. A Google Tourbuilder site is forthcoming.
View the community report here: Memory and History in South Eleuthera: A Report to the People of South Eleuthera.
Constructing Mindful Heritage Narratives of Black Women in Slavery
M.A. paper, published in the Journal for African Diaspora Archaeology and Heritage
This research was the product of several projects focusing on the legacies of slavery in New England, including collaborations with the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association in Deerfield, MA. Drawing on archival research, historical analysis and reexamination of archaeological studies, this research used a Black Feminist framework to understand how scholars and heritage professionals have constructed the narrative of Black women in slavery and freedom, arguing for more nuanced interpretations of womanhood in these contexts. Related papers were published in the Journal for African Diaspora Archaeology and Heritage and the Journal of Community Archaeology and Heritage.