Situational Identities along the Raiding Frontier of Colonial New Mexico


Situational Identities along the Raiding Frontier of Colonial New Mexico

Jun U. Sunseri

Historical Archaeology of the American West Series

240 pages
3 photographs, 16 illustrations, 5 maps, 4 tables, 39 graphs, index


February 2018


$55.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

February 2018


$55.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

February 2018


$55.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Situational Identities along the Raiding Frontier of Colonial New Mexico examines pluralistic communities that navigated between colonial and indigenous practices to negotiate strategic alliances with both sides of generations-old conflicts. The rich history of the southwestern community of Casitas Viejas straddles multiple cultures and identities and is representative of multiple settlements in the region of northern New Mexico that served as a “buffer,” protecting the larger towns of New Spain from Apache, Navajo, Ute, and Comanche raiders. These genízaro settlements of Indo-Hispano settlers used shrewd cross-cultural skills to survive.

Researching the dynamics of these communities has long been difficult, due in large part to the lack of material records. In this innovative case study, Jun U. Sunseri examines persistent cultural practices among families who lived at Casitas Viejas and explores the complex identities of the region’s communities. Applying theoretical and methodological approaches, Sunseri adds oral histories, performative traditions of contemporary inhabitants, culinary practices, and local culture to traditional archaeology to shed light on the historical identities of these communities that bridged two worlds.


Author Bio

Jun U. Sunseri is an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley.


"[Sunseri's] work is personal, innovative, and effective in its use of disparate sources, from scientific analysis to oral history, and provides the reader with a well reasoned and supported argument for cultural fluidity and continuation on the New Mexico colonial borderlands."—Peg Kearney, Journal of Arizona History

"Situational Identities along the Raiding Frontier of Colonial New Mexico offers a strong foundation on which to build future place-based historical archaeologies in the Southwest, deeply informed by those who have thought with the land for generations."—Valerie Bondura, Society for Historical Archaeology

"The ethnic pluralism that emerges from Sunseri's text and artifacts will resonate beyond scholarly circles, offering critical insight into contemporary issues around what it means to be 'New Mexican.'"—Dana Velasco Murillo, Western Historical Quarterly

"Situational Identities has much to offer those interested in the regional history of New Mexico, the broader history of Spanish frontier spaces, and the important work of blending methodologies across the humanities and social science disciplines."—Sean F. McEnroe, Hispanic American Historical Review

“This case makes a significant contribution to the interdisciplinary study of the Spanish borderlands, especially in New Mexico, and will set the bar for archaeological and anthropological research into genízaro communities like Casitas.”—Bonnie J. Clark, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Denver and author of On the Edge of Purgatory: An Archaeology of Place in Hispanic Colorado

“This book is a culmination of several years of innovative research at Casitas that is important because it involves local descendent communities for whom this site has great personal and historic meaning. The research is comprehensive and integrates multiple lines of evidence in an unusual way, including documentary, landscape/viewshed, architectural, zooarchaeological, and ceramic analyses.”—Barnet Pavao-Zuckerman, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Maryland and coauthor of Mission and Pueblo of Santa Catalina de Guale, St. Catherines Island, Georgia: A Comparative Zooarchaeological Analysis

Table of Contents

List of Figures
List of Tables
Chapter 1. Standing Fast in the Middle Ground
            Community Research Mandates as a Privilege to Earn for Historical Archaeology
A Spanish Colonial Project in a Native American Landscape
(Un)documented New Mexico
Previous Archaeological Research
Chapter 2. Digging Out Community
Picturing the Cast(a) of the Drama in Northern New Mexico
Frontline Families and Opportunities
A Turning Point on a Critical Frontier
            Viewing Research on the Borderlands from a Distance
Borderlands Identities as Strategy
A Historical Archaeology of Identity as a Complex of Possibilities
Concepts of Homescape and Hearthscape
Chapter 3. Homescape
            Landscape and Identity
            Maps and Mappings
            The Tactical Homescape
            The Engineered Homescape
            Evaluating Topographic Space for Potential as Agricultural Place
            Modeling Hydrodynamics of Acequia Irrigation
            Palimpsests of Place Along the Rito Colorado
            Landscape Dimensions in Dialogue
Chapter 4. Hearthscape Tools
            Pottery as Foodway Toolkits
            Who made these pots?
            Typologies and Historic New Mexican Pottery
            Choosing Clay for Making Pots
            Transformations of Clay into Tools
            The Thermodynamic Art of Firing
            Pots in Performance
            A Process of Identity
Chapter 5. Hearthscape Ingredients
Grazing to Gravy
            What Animals Were Part of Life at Casitas?
            Creation of the Faunal Archaeological Record
            Animal Bodies Becoming Portions
Transformations into Food
Tool Marks and Burning
How was Meat Portioned and Consumed?
Hearthscape Evidence in Dialog
Chapter 6. Historical Archaeology of a Place beyond Labels
            Foodways Stages of Production and Consumption
            Production Practices Related to Consumption
            Use and Disposal
            Hearthscape Trends Across the Plazuela
            Tactical and Engineering Perspectives on Homescape Practices
            Complicating Identity on the Frontier By Putting Scales in Dialogue
EPILOGUE: Protecting a Guardian of the Frontier
            New Directions for Future Research
            Archaeology and Preservation as Memory, Performance, and Political Action

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