Historical Archaeology

, Volume 45, Issue 3, pp 55–73 | Cite as

Incorrigible Vagabonds and Suspicious Spaces in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans

  • D. Ryan Gray


Urban archaeological projects routinely incorporate official documents, like census records, probate inventories, and city directories in order to present a nuanced interpretation of the historical material record with a goal of “giving voice” to populations marginalized on the basis of race, ethnicity, class, or other ideas of social difference. By reifying archaeological knowledge around a vision of the city rooted in the stability of documents, however, such projects risk reproducing a dominant narrative of orderly development, itself meant to conceal the contradictions and inequalities associated with the rise of capitalism. An archaeological data recovery at the probable site of a ca. 1840s tavern and boardinghouse located along New Orleans’s riverfront, coupled with a critical reading of census records and newspaper reports of crime and urban disorder, provide opportunities through which the social identity of those existing on the margins of the city may be interrogated.


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Copyright information

© Society for Historical Archaeology 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. Ryan Gray
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of New OrleansNew OrleansUSA

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