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The Issei at Barneston Project

Welcome to the Issei at Barneston Project (or IABP)!

This project, which comprises my dissertation project for the Department of Anthropology at the University of Washington, seeks to reconstruct the daily lives and struggles of early 20th century first-generation Japanese American (Issei) sawmill workers at the company town of Barneston, Washington (1898-1924). Arriving at America’s shores in search of social and economic opportunity, the Issei found themselves confronting not only a new and unfamiliar social environment, but one heavily structured by a system of racial hierarchy which relegated the Issei to a position of subordinate status and social and civil alienation. Drawing on archaeological evidence, archival material, oral testimonies, and secondary literature from history, sociology, and Japanese American studies, my project seeks to understand both the ways in which these social forces impacted sawmill town Issei’s day-to-day activities and choices, and the strategies they used to survive and endure in response.

The project is anticipated to run over several field seasons. Two field seasons, summer 2016 and summer 2017, have already been completed, and a very short third one is planned for  summer 2018, with final excavation to be completed by spring or summer of 2019. The goals of the IABP are:

  1. Develop a framework for understanding how labor relations and racism impacted the lives and experiences of Issei sawmill workers.
  2. Provide material that can help revise narratives about the lumber industry so that they better include the contributions of Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants.
  3. Reconstruct and characterize the daily lives of the Nikkei community at Barneston, Washington.

More details about the overall research design and season-specific goals will be released at a later date. As part of this project, we will make use of multiple different and complementary sources of evidence, including published oral testimonies, archival research, and archaeological investigation. This blog will document a number of these methods, both to increase the transparency and accountability of our project and to showcase historical archaeological research in action.