Alliance Rises in the West


Alliance Rises in the West

Labor, Race, and Solidarity in Industrial California

Charlotte K. Sunseri

Historical Archaeology of the American West Series

174 pages
30 photographs, 6 illustrations, 4 maps, 6 tables, index


December 2020


$60.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

December 2020


$60.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

December 2020


$60.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Alliance Rises in the West documents the experiences of a company town at a critical moment in the rise of working-class consciousness in nineteenth-century California. Through archaeological research Charlotte K. Sunseri overcomes the silence of the documentary record to re-examine the mining frontier at Mono Mills, a community of multiple ethnic and racial groups, predominantly Chinese immigrants and Kudzadika Paiutes. The rise of political, economic, and social alliances among workers symbolized solidarity and provided opportunity to effect change in this setting of unequal power. Urban planning and neighborhood layout depict company structures of control and surveillance, while household archaeology from ethnically distinct neighborhoods speaks to lived experiences and how working-class identities emerged to crosscut ethnic and racial divides imposed in capitalism.

Mono Mills’s Paiute and Chinese communities experienced exclusionary legislation and brutal treatment on the basis of racial prejudice but lived alongside and built community with European American laborers, managers, and merchants who were also on an economic periphery. These experiences in Mono Mills and other nineteenth-century company towns did not occur in a vacuum; capitalists’ control and ideologies of race and class all doubled down as American workers used collective action to change the rules of the system. In this rare, in-depth perspective, close consideration of the ghost towns that dot the landscape of the West shows the haunting elements of capitalism and racial structures that characterized Gilded Age society and whose legacies endure to this day.


Author Bio

Charlotte K. Sunseri is an associate professor of anthropology at San Jose State University.


"Sunseri effectively uses archaeology to unmute the archival record and let the workers speak. This book belongs on the shelf of scholars who study labor’s struggle and on the reading list for graduate seminars on historical archaeology."—Randall H. McGuire, Journal of Anthropological Research

"An excellent study on a topic that is on the cutting edge of multi-ethnic scholarship and challenges the long-held notion that there was little or no positive interaction between the Chinese, Native Americans, and Euro-Americans."—Sue Fawn Chung, Western Historical Quarterly

"Alliance Rises in the West is cohesive, compact, and convincing. The text is at its best when pinpointing important historical and archaeological parallels between the lived overseas Chinese and Native Paiute experiences. . . . [Sunseri's] work is a well-researched, insightful, and clear examination of daily life in historical Mono Mills and class struggles during the Gilded Age."—Seth Mallios, American Antiquity

"Sunseri's work provides a more complete assessment of the experience of non-white laborers in the Gilded Age of the American West than study of documentary evidence alone allows."—Kathleen L. Hull, American Anthropologist

"This is an approachable and concise study that is certain to inform the work of educators and researchers with interests in such topics as class, capitalism, and labor movements, as well as
race and racialization during the Gilded Age. For students, the book represents an excellent case study in gathering and comparing multiple forms of evidence in archaeological research. Alliance Rises in the West is recommended reading for historical archaeologists, particularly specialists in California and elsewhere investigating the experiences and agency of minoritized ethnic groups combating and rebuffing discrimination and violence during California's long history of missionary, mercantile, and settler colonialism."—Tsim D. Schneider, California History

Alliance Rises in the West makes a significant contribution to the archaeology and history of labor, race, and the politics of alliance of industrial communities in the American West.”—Donald L. Hardesty, author of Mining Archaeology in the American West: A View from the Silver State

“Sunseri’s book makes a very important contribution to the field of historical archaeology in the West and offers a broad set of contributions to historical archaeology globally and to our understanding of intersubjectivity in the past. Sunseri masterfully sweeps research that is far ranging across the fields of ethnicity, race, class, and, most significantly, labor.”—Carolyn L. White, editor of The Materiality of Individuality: Archaeological Studies of Individual Lives

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations    
List of Tables    
Introduction: Mono Mills, a Wild West Suburb    
1. Beneath the Gilding of 19th-Century Company Towns    
2. Archaeological Study of Laborers’ Identities in Capitalism    
3. Paiute and Chinese Laborers in Mono Mills    
4. Archaeology of Race-Based Collective Action    
5. Archaeology of Working-Class Solidarity and Resistance    

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