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Honors Thesis-Unrestricted

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Danny Ryan Gray


The purpose of this paper is to uncover the history of New Orleans’s Irish Channel and, through the use of archaeological evidence from two household privies, to trace the social processes involved in the formation of ethnicity and social identity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Despite its name and the annual St. Patrick's Day celebrations that take place in its streets, the Irish Channel was never an ethnic enclave of Irish identity. With an equal number of Germans, along with some English and French immigrants, and certain streets comprised fully of African-Americans, the Irish Channel was home to a diverse assortment of people all with unique and fluid conceptions of "identity." This paper attempts to flesh out the changing social, cultural, and institutional boundaries surrounding the formation of ethnic and cultural identities in the Irish Channel at the turn of twentieth century. By combining contemporary anthropological theory on ethnicity and cultural change with an analysis of the archaeological data and the historical and social contexts in which material culture was used, I challenge the usefulness of assimilationist approaches to understanding culture and the archaeological record. Using the archaeology of two Irish Channel families, I demonstrate the need for studying the complex, multidimensional relationship between material culture and identity in order to gain a deeper understanding of the past.


The University of New Orleans and its agents retain the non-exclusive license to archive and make accessible this honors thesis in whole or part in all forms of media, now or hereafter known. The author retains all other ownership rights to the copyright of the honors thesis.

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