For my project I researched the Chinese migrant communities of the nineteenth century working on the railroads. I decided to revolve my research around the precarity and futurity of migrant worker from Barbara Voss’ framework. Precarity in this case is risk assessment and futurity is the individual’s view of the future from their point of view.
What I then found in my research is that the easiest thing to write about was either the ceramic material culture and faunal remains from the animals they ate. There was a lot of valuable information about dietary practices and trade networks but surprisingly few about daily life. The findings were generally the same things in many places like porcelain and other ceramics and beef, chicken, and pork popular in chinese cooking alongside fish (Kennedy 2015, Porcasi 2017). The list goes on into shark and bear as well (Kennedy 2018).
It was also important to note the social challenges faced at the time such as institutional inequalities like various exclusionary laws and discriminatory zoning and taxation (Chace-Evens 2015) and social discrimination like the mob in Mono Mills (Sunseri 2015)
When I presented my findings to the class I was surprised by how few people were working on the archaeology for Chinese migrant communities but it might’ve been that those were just the only ones available online. In Voss’ article on transnational archaeology in China, there are notably many challenges in studying these same phenomena hear and in China such as the obvious language barrier but also practices like the way archaeology is done. There’s hopefully a lot more in physical text. This was surprisingly difficult to write as much meaningful synthesis as I wanted but it only goes to show the importance of expanding the field of archaeology and looking into things in a variety of perspectives.