Contemporary Socio-political Context: Collaboration

The contemporary context surrounding the project, mentioned briefly in the Introduction, also contains many examples of multiple and contradictory identity. Early efforts to interpret the site publicly revealed both consensus and conflict - not only between members of different ethnic groups, but also between factions of descendants within the same ethnic groups (McDavid 1997a). Generally, when I refer to 'we' in this paper, I refer to myself and to my collaborators, who include members of these different groups as well as various academics who have contributed web site content. Our objective throughout the process has been to create a communicative forum to give voice to the multiple, shifting, and sometimes contested, understandings of past and present which the archaeological project has both revealed and engendered. Our hope is that this forum will provide space for contemporary people (multiply defined along crosscutting axes of race, religion, class, gender, family, professional and community affiliation - and other categories too numerous to name) to participate in this archaeological, historical, and, ultimately, social discourse (West 1993, 90).

'Collaboration' here refers to our attempt to develop this project in a reciprocal, non-hierarchical, mutually empowering way. I do not mean that I am not perceived as the 'leader' of the project - that role is one I claim and do not attempt to disguise. I mean, rather, that the project would not have begun without my collaborators' (local and academic) permission to proceed, and that it would not continue without their ongoing support and participation. Individual collaborators continue to be involved in every stage of the project - planning, design, content development, and delivery. We see our roles as necessary to each other; they are my 'bosses', and they have, in effect, asked me to 'drive' the project, involving them, and being involved in their own agendas, according to our mutual needs. However, the bottom line is that this project begins (and ends if need be) with individual people who are members of the diverse descendant communities of the Levi Jordan Plantation. Should they wish to pull the plug, the project would stop - and they know that.

In some sense, the current project actually began years ago as I did research for my master's thesis at the University of Houston. This thesis (a shorter version of which was published in McDavid (1997a) explored the feasibility of doing any kind of 'public interpretation' of the archaeology of the Jordan plantation within the local community. This research began some 9 years after Ken Brown at the University of Houston began excavating the site. During this period I began to form the collaborative relationships which make the current project possible, and issues of power, control, and identity began to be discussed by both academics and local people more openly. Obviously all of us were aware of existing power relationships in Brazoria (local people more than I, no doubt), but this early work did have the result of putting these relationships 'on the table'. Since then, all of our 'taken-for-granteds' have gone through many phases of critical examination and exploration. They continue to be incorporated into the current collaboration, that of building a public interpretation which exists not only in 'real' space, but also in 'cyberspace'.

Go to the Levi Jordan Web Site


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Last updated: Wed Apr 28 1999