Archaeology of the Contemporary American Experience: Three Chapters

A couple of years ago, I watched one of buddies here at the University of North Dakota write his book. When he completed a chapter draft, he dutifully hung it by a binder clip on a bookshelf in his office. This gave him a nice visual reminder that he was making progress toward his goal. 

I’ve struggled a bit to embrace this feeling of progress with any project lately. The COVID-19 situation hasn’t helped, but even before then, I felt a bit like I was stuck on a treadmill writing the same thing over and over just using different words. I suppose this is part of what happens when the desire to write exceeds the time, space, or ability to produce ideas. In any event, in place of an impressive display of dangling chapters, I’ll post chapters here to my blog from time to time. 

In any event, I have completed three chapters of a book that I’m writing titledThe Archaeology of the Contemporary American Experience.These are very, very rough drafts. The citations are not entirely complete (I work up this morning feeling vaguely anxious for not having cited Paul Mullins’s work in Chapter 2 and 3!) and they’re about 1000 words shorter than they’ll be when they’re folded together to make a coherent(-ish) book. This also includes working on transitions between the chapters and filling out the references. There are also new books and articles on many of the things that I discuss in these two chapters appearing all the time (and a few books are still en route via ILL). 

You can read a very rough outline of my book proposal here. The book is about 60% survey and 40% a cultural and methodological study of the archaeology of the contemporary American experience. As a result, a significant part of the book will tend toward the descriptive. My hope is that the 40% of the book where I try to do some cultural history isn’t so far off the mark (or so mundane) to be uninteresting or, worse still, produce an archaeology that is merely illustrating well-known history from texts.  

I’ve completed a draft of the introduction (or Chapter 0) and the second chapter on Garbology (Chapter 2). The case study based on the Alamogordo Atari Excavation should be pretty easy to write and since this chapter and the one on my work with the North Dakota Man Camp project in the Bakken are “anchor chapters,” I’ll write these last. I also plan to write some kind of mini-chapter which connects the first part of the book to the second based on my work with the Wesley College Documentation Project.  

Here are the two of the first three chapters:

Chapter 0: Introduction

Chapter 1: The Alamogordo Atari Excavation

Chapter 2: The Archaeology of Garbage

Chapter 3: Things, Materiality, and Agency

Chapter 4: Media Archaeology, Archaeogaming, and Digital Archaeology

As always, if you have observations, constructive criticism, or just unmitigated hatred of everything that I’m doing here, please do let me know!

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