Materiality, Utopia, and Living History at New Buffalo Commune: An Historical Archaeological Narrative of the Sixties Counterculture from Its Unexpected Discards
Katherine Elizabeth Heupel
In this dissertation, I examine a former sixties era hippie commune from the things and memories its residents have left behind. I focus on the intersections of memories, materialities, identities and systems of signification in order to suggest the following: that we might consider through archaeological, anthropological, and oral historical analyses the value of a genealogy of the sixties alongside histories of the era; that plastic presents a challenging archaeological issue (one of method and curation) while simultaneously reifying a social sense of its artificiality as an artifact of New Buffalo and a present-fact of speech (i.e. referring metaphorically to things as ‘plastic’, meaning false or artificial); that considerations of a ‘hippie’ work ethic might be productively brought to bear upon contemporary concerns about work and labor, but also might unpack our understandings of work and labor in American history; that playing primitive is a performance of citation and appropriation, a process of the inauthentic mimesis creating an authentic new (problematic) identity; and that artifacts and other objects shape (even re-appropriate) memories as much as they are re-made by them, and that recent historical artifacts can open up interesting collaborative analytical spaces when brought into actual conversation with site inhabitants, residents, and visitors. I aim to synthesize a number of threads, a number of different thought clusters throughout this dissertation in an effort to unpack anew questions of authenticity, of performing primitive as a kind of ‘Indian play’, or cultural appropriation, while also articulating a kind of identity creation that is aesthetic, political and counter to hegemonic and dominant traditions and forms. This work combines original field research at the site of New Buffalo commune in Arroyo Hondo, NM (in Taos County) and among the New Buffalos.