BLACK FEMINIST ARCHAEOLOGY is written by Whitney Battle-Baptiste, PhD, historical archaeologist and associate professor of archaeology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. This author, who is “interested in race, gender, and cultural landscapes,”shows that too often in mainstream archaeological theory, Black culture and the experiences of Black women and our families are overlooked and dismissed. In BLACK FEMINIST ARCHAEOLOGY Dr. Baptiste shows how her work at the Andrew Jackson Hermitage, Lucy Foster site and the W.E.B. DuBois homesites, fuse Black Feminist theory and archaeology and how it is not only beneficial but a necessary perspective in complicating the experiences of members of the diaspora; it paints a clearer picture of the ways Black culture was experienced.
The initial chapter begins by perfectly ‘Constructing a Black Feminist Framework’, in order to explain that a theory based on gender and race is essential in order to understand this concept, add another dimension to the discipline. And as Black feminism shows the way Black women experience society, there is also a different interpretation of historical archaeology — that moves beyond the teachings of the mainstream discipline. Dr. Baptiste offers her explanation on how conjoining Black Feminist Theory and archaeology in her projects provides a way to open a discussion between archaeologists, which is her intent. It also shows that “when archaeologists critically engage with a dialogue about the intersectionality of race and gender, we begin to see the deeper forms of oppression and how they affect the lives of marginalized populations.”
I don’t know much about archaeology. The course I took as an undergraduate required for all anthropology majors, hardly qualifies me to have a thorough understanding of this subfield. However, since I have studied anthropology and have made an effort to examine the pieces of the past that are related to members of the African Diaspora, I have come to see that there are more ways to look at my ancestors that tells a more complicated story and provides a more complex view of our past.
Before I allowed myself to adopt a label — feminist, or before I allowed anyone else to label me, it was generally assumed by people that I was a Womanist, and I’ve had several people ask if I identified this way. I assumed since Womanist was a reaction to mainstream feminism that failed to take into account the experiences of Black women, and was a concept and term coined by a Black woman — Alice Walker, this was my path. But like Baptiste, I recognized this vantage point was limited and did not allow the reasoning, and critique that was necessary to look at the past and relate this to our current times. I wanted to challenge intersectional injustice. It is also when I began to understand that there was Black Feminist territory that allowed me the critical standpoint needed, and I often apply this much of my reasoning. Today, there are some things I just don’t understand without looking through a Black feminist framework.
I have hope in the work presented in BLACK FEMINIST ARCHAEOLOGY. Not only for my ancestors and the people who continue to be marginalized by current mainstream theory, but for countless others who will be able to recognize the ways these teachings show how we can more readily level the field and start producing a true story that is more in accordance to the reality of slavery and beyond.