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Anthropology | Summer Field School

The Great Depression Undocumented Labor Project

Archaeology Field School: May 17-June 23

Application Form (PDF)

For full consideration please apply to the 2017 Archaeology Field School no later than May 5, 2017 (and please see registration notes below).

American University and the Department of Anthropology are pleased to invite students to participate in the 2nd annual Great Depression Undocumented Labor Project (GDULP) Archaeology Field School to start during the early summer of 2017. The Field School will take place in Delta, Pennsylvania, located just north of the Maryland border in the south central part of the state. This summer's course represents the second field season done under the umbrella of the GDULP program and is an initiative of the Project Director, Dr. Dan Sayers and co-Principal Investigator, AU Anthropology doctoral candidate Justin Uehlein. We will be working in the town of Delta and we hope to have a substantial community engagement component to this summer's field school. A main research focus for the GDULP field school this summer will be on revealing and determining the extent of a known 1880-1945 transient laborer community, including hobos, located at the town's edge, underneath and near an old relict railroad trestle. Beyond such basic information, we hope to excavate enough materials from the 1880-1945 period to begin to address important anthropological questions, such as: What kind of community did these people form and engage in? In what ways was material culture and landscape important to community resistance to local and wider-world injustices under capitalism and its exploitative labor regimes? How did the Great Depression impact these undocumented laborer communities?

Additional archaeological work may take place at a former meatpacking facility where members of the undocumented community worked from time to time. Our work at this site, should it happen, will address issues related to labor and industrial slaughter and consumption of beings of animals from species other than our own; impacts of this kind of work on subsistence practices of the undocumented community; and, the role of landscape in perpetuating undocumented laborers being used in the meatpacking industry.

In 2017, our fieldwork will emphasize archaeological survey, intensive excavations, and identification of material culture. Participants will share in the excitement of recording previously unknown archaeological sites while also helping us to vastly increase our understanding of undocumented and transient laborers and their lives in the US.

Beyond the important archaeological work that students will take part in, this summer's field school will also include an extensive ethnographic component. Students will have the opportunity to assist Uehlein in performing unstructured interviews with local, Delta residents. Ethnographic work will focus primarily on collecting oral histories, but will also explore the historic process of narrative formation around hobos and other transient workers in Delta, including the way they are remembered by locals today.

While subject to modification, the general course schedule represents a rigorous, challenging and fun program. We will spend approximately 5 weeks doing archaeological fieldwork; this will include daily (M-F) excursions into Delta, PA from campus (generally 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the field- time is amenable to change to fit an earlier schedule if desired by students collectively), laboratory work, such as artifacts cleaning and sorting. Preliminary analysis will also be a part of the class and will take place on days to be determined. Discussion groups and lectures will also be part of the educational and social atmosphere of the course.

As one of the only programs that focuses on 20th century transient laborer communities in historical North America, the GDULP Field School will provide students with unparalleled opportunities to help piece together resistance and social histories of homelessness and forgotten communities that have great contemporary significance and resonance in public, activist, and academic sectors in the U.S. and beyond.

Student Experience, Opportunities, and Benefits

Students will have ample opportunities to gain solid experiences and training in a variety of aspects of archaeological fieldwork including, but not limited to, the following:

• Archaeological Pedestrian Survey and Excavation Methods • Research Design Development • Research Photography, Mapping, and Data Recordation • Global Positioning System (GPS) • Total Station and Precision Survey • Historical Artifact Identification • Methods of cultural resources conservation and stewarding • Being a contributing part of a research team • Public interaction and interpretation • Connecting anthropological theory and politics with real world data and information

In gaining such experiences, students will be paving the way to their future employment in public, academic, and private archaeology research. Students who are not planning on a career in archaeology will find the experience of learning the methods and practices of archaeology and working as part of a research team in a vast natural setting to be rewarding and beneficial for any career and personal paths. Participating students will play key roles in helping the GDULP to generate a detailed archaeological data set of Great Depression-era transient laborer communities which will one of the first of its kind in the United States.



Generally, students should register through American University for ANTH 560 for 3 or 6 credit hours. Costs will include tuition as well as a Field School fee that is not to exceed $475. For the duration of the field school, we will be driving to and from the site each day (generally, M-F) in a large van to accommodate all student participants. Students will be responsible for bringing food to the site each day as well as some specific pieces of equipment that will be determined before the field school begins. Please contact the Project Director if you have any questions or concerns about the costs, logistics, and/or details of the program.

Admission into the 2017 Field School is by permission of the Project Director. Students wishing to be considered for participation should submit a completed Field School Application to the Project Director by mail no later than April 25, 2017 (applications sent by email must have the required participant signature). Please be aware that any course can be cancelled if enrollees are too few in number. So, for the sake of the course, interested students should apply as early as possible in the spring (e.g., March and early April). Applications are available on this page or can be obtained from the Project Director.

Please send applications and direct any Field School–related questions to:

Dr. Daniel O. Sayers
Associate Professor and Chair,
Department of Anthropology
Hamilton Hall, Room 101
American University
Washington DC 20016

* In developing this program over the next few months, some aspects of the 2017 Field School detailed here and in course documents are subject to change. Those interested in participating are urged to periodically check this page for alerts to any such changes. Those who have submitted applications will be notified of changes directly by email or telephone.

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Please send applications and direct any school-related questions to:

Dr. Daniel O. Sayers
Department of Anthropology
Battelle-Tompkins Bldg
American University
Washington DC 20016

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