The center of civilization: Archaeology and history of the Kaweah Co -operative Commonwealth
This dissertation is an archaeological and historical study of the ca. 1885-1892 socialist intentional community, the Kaweah Co-operative Commonwealth Colony, and their attempts to build a new society at a series of camps in Tulare County, California. An archaeological approach to material and documentary sources addresses how members created their daily lives in practice as informed by the group's ideals and their expectations of progress and civility. Multi-scalar analyses demonstrate the differing influences and tensions present in colonists' interactions at local, inter-community, and national levels.
Initiated by San Francisco based labor activists, the Kaweah Colony sought to replace a monopolistic and competitive economic system with one in which all workers received the fair value of their labor. The colonists created a cultural landscape deeply tied to their aspirations, and published a large body of literature reflecting and reinforcing conditions in both their real and imagined worlds.
By exploring the remains of material and written worlds of the Kaweah colonists I discuss how standards of comfort and domesticity maintained by some colonists exposed and perpetuated inequalities within and between the domestic camps. High population turnover around a small core of families and inconsistent availability of basic supplies and expertise exacerbated difficulties in creating a stable industrial and residential base for the group. While the Colony struggled economically, individual and community resources were consistently devoted to social and educational initiatives on the grounds, and to publication of the newspaper which carried information about the group to subscribers around the United States. Archaeological survey and excavation at the ca. 1887-1891 residential center of Advance revealed the combined efforts of colonists to maintain an image of civility while living at the site, to recover all reusable materials when moving to their subsequent town of Kaweah, and to project an image of progress by clearing evidence of their presence and of the tensions and failures experienced while occupying the camp. Approaching the Kaweah Colony at the different scales afforded by an historical archaeological perspective facilitates an understanding of how practice and ideal were negotiated in lived and literary landscapes of aspiration.
0337: American history