LANDSCAPES OF TENSION: EXPLORING NERVOUSNESS AND ANXIETY ON A MARYLAND PLANTATION
Shackel, Paul A
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This dissertation examines a late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century plantation site, L’Hermitage, which is located in Frederick, Maryland, on what is now Monocacy National Battlefield. It considers how the interactions among and between the plantation owners, the Vincendière family, and their enslaved workers, in order to investigate how negotiations of power and supremacy can be read through spatial organization, material culture, and interpersonal relations. I refer to Denis Byrne’s (2003) use of the phrase “nervous landscape” to explore how a landscape and its occupants can be literally and figuratively nervous when absolute power fails and a heterogeneity and multiplicity of power and identities are introduced. That is, the disruption of homogeneity and hegemony breeds nervousness. Byrne uses this concept to explore racial tension; however, this project recognizes that anxiety can emerge from uneasiness around other structural factors. This research relies on multiple sources, including historical documents, artifacts, and archaeological features in order to explore how race, gender, class, religion, and nationality interacted on the plantation landscape. This work applies particular attention to how the power dynamics around these hierarchies played out within the nervous frame, mitigating or contributing to a nervous landscape. The dissertation also uses this framework to explore nervousness in the literal sense; how anxiety was a fundamental element of the colonial experience, and more broadly how emotion is an important aspect of the human experience that should be considered in archaeological interpretations of the past. This research is intended to contribute to the National Park Service’s goal of enhancing its interpretation of the larger context of the Civil War. Monocacy National Battlefield (MNB) is primarily valued for the battle that took place in 1864, and this is reflected in much of its current interpretation. However, MNB is committed to expanding this interpretation to situate the Civil War battle in its historical, social, political, economic, and geographical context. Research on plantation life, including topics such as agriculture, slavery, and racism, will contribute toward this goal. Furthermore, the results of my study can be useful in framing the way Monocacy discusses power dynamics and identity in the context of L’Hermitage.