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Fellows Forum - Dwelling Spaces of Enslavement in Plantation Jamaica

Kenwood Parlor, Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies (next to the Jefferson Library)
Thursday, August 14, 2014 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm

By the mid-18th century, British colonization had embedded itself within the heterogeneous range of New World environments. The agricultural plantation had become a substantial unit of social and economic life in the British Atlantic, organizing planter, family, wage and enslaved laborers within a range of environmental contexts and distinctive patterns of everyday 'dwelling' practices. Approached through archaeological study, this concern for day-to-day 'dwelling' represents a significant and revealing avenue for understanding the complex lives of enslaved laborers and their communities within large-scale sugar plantations.

This Fellows Forum surveys the findings of recent archaeological investigations in the slave village of Good Hope estate, an 18th and 19th-century sugar plantation in northern Jamaica. Home to 400 to 500 enslaved laborers at any one time between 1766 and 1838, the discovery and excavation of the village site provides a unique glimpse into the differential lives and 'dwelling' practices of an enslaved community, and the active ways in which they manipulated the conditions of enslavement. Combining insights from comparative plantation archaeology, a theory 'dwelling,' and historical ecology, the project investigates the social manipulation and amplification of human-environment relations within plantation Jamaica.

The Good Hope Archaeological Project is a recent addition to the Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery (DAACS), housed at Monticello. The ongoing project builds upon the work of DAACS and Monticello's Department of Archaeology, using a comparative understanding of the internal composition of enslaved communities.

Hayden Bassett is a Ph.D. Candidate in the College of William & Mary's Department of Anthropology, specializing in historical archaeology. As the Principle Investigator of the Good Hope Archaeological Project, his ongoing dissertation research explores the sugar plantation system of 18th and 19th-century Jamaica through a comparative framework of 'dwelling' and human-environment relations.

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