On decentring ethnicity in buildings research: The settler homestead as assemblage

Agusta Edwald Maxwell (Corresponding Author), Jeff Oliver

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The concept of ethnicity is a prevailing explanatory device in studies of colonial architecture. This paper argues for decentring ethnicity in buildings research through treating buildings as ‘assemblages’ of both material and social ‘things’. Drawing on a case study from the late 19th-century settler landscape of Manitoba, Canada, we illustrate how settler architecture – conceived of as an ‘assemblage’ – can shed light on the events, processes and material consequences of homesteading in a new land. Through decentring ethnicity as a determining factor in building projects, the role of settler architecture as a material indicator of resistance or assimilation becomes more easily questioned. An archaeological interpretation of buildings as assemblages draws attention towards their materiality and the embodied experiences of building by highlighting the historical and geographical contingencies of the settlement landscape.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-48
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Social Archaeology
Issue number1
Early online date18 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017


  • Buildings
  • Assemblage
  • Settler Society
  • Canada
  • Archaeology
  • ethnicity
  • Architecture
  • Manitoba


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