Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Neil L. Norman
The “slave village” occupies an important place in New World plantation archaeology, though one in which the variation of experience and the internal social organization have yet to be thoroughly addressed. Through archaeological investigation, this dissertation explores the social dynamics and institutions created by enslaved people to negotiate their domestic circumstances. In many plantation settings, enslaved people lived in dedicated villages or the rear-yards of plantation houses. their domestic boundaries were prescribed, but the life they created within those boundaries was by and large a product of their own sense of sociability, domesticity, and ingenuity. The ways in which people created, divided, and decided on the everyday tasks of life, and positioned themselves in relation to others, reveals much about the domestic strategies they created to navigate and negotiate the conditions of enslavement. I develop this research through an archaeological investigation of three related sites in northern Jamaica. Each site represents domestic spaces of enslaved people tied to Good Hope estate, a 2000-acre sugar plantation that operated from the mid 18th through the early 19th century. Upwards of 500 enslaved people labored at Good Hope at any one time, living between these three separate sites. While most of the enslaved labor force lived in a central primary village, the second smaller village and the urban quarters housed the plantation’s enslaved domestic servants. Archaeological investigation of these three sites provided the data necessary to understand enslaved domestic life as it concerns household organization, consumer choices, the implications of labor roles, physical and social mobility, and the degree to which the plantation’s laboring population organized itself into a distinct enslaved community. This pursuit of community, as a social process, developed and maintained through everyday dwelling, guides this research. By revealing the “enslaved community” as constrained from the outside, though socially constituted from within, this dissertation develops methods, measures, and socio-cultural insight into how forcefully aggregated populations develop social institutions to navigate the often horrific conditions imposed from the outside. Together, this study demonstrates how slavery was an attempt to dehumanize, but failed in that project. Innovative and strategic measures allowed a systematically exploited group of people to reclaim humanity through a social world carved out by and for enslaved people in the dwelling space of the plantation regime.
© The Author
Bassett, Hayden Frith, "The Archaeology of Enslavement in Plantation Jamaica: A Study of Community Dynamics among The Enslaved People of Good Hope Estate, 1775-1838" (2017). Dissertations, Theses, and Masters Projects. Paper 1499450054.