International Journal of Historical Archaeology

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 305–328 | Cite as

Consuming Citizenship? The Archaeology of Mexican Immigrant Ambivalence in Early Twentieth-Century Los Angeles

  • Stacey Lynn CampEmail author


In late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America, the consumption of American-made goods was seen as an expression of one’s patriotism and loyalty to the nation. According to a number of historical archaeological case studies, racialized groups, such as African Americans and Chinese Americans, used consumption as a way of gaining access to the full benefits of American citizenship typically reserved for individuals deemed “white” by law. The material culture of Mexican immigrants living in early twentieth-century Los Angeles tells a slightly different tale. Despite being ascribed a legal whiteness, archaeological and documentary data suggest that Mexican immigrants expressed ambivalence toward their consumption of American goods and outright rejected the notion that exerting such buying power would lead to a broader acceptance in Anglo American society.


Mexican immigrants Los Angeles Consumer citizenship Americanization 



The author extends her thanks to two anonymous International Journal of Historical Archaeology reviewers, Charles Orser, and Bryn Williams for reading and providing useful commentary on a draft of this article. Brian Marcroft of the Scenic Mount Lowe Railway Historical Committee and his family members have provided hours of assistance and guidance throughout my research on Mount Lowe. The research detailed in this article was funded by a Visiting Scholar Fellowship from the Autry National Center for the Study of the American West, two Pre-Dissertation Mellon Summer Field Grants, a Stanford University School of Humanities and Social Sciences Graduate Research Opportunities Grant, a grant from the Historical Society of Southern California, and numerous grants awarded between 2003 and 2009 from Stanford University’s Archaeology Center and Department of Anthropology. Thanks are also owed to her colleagues at the University of Idaho, who heard and offered feedback on a version of this article during the Department of History’s “History, Culture, and Society” interdisciplinary faculty brown bag series. Conversations with Stanford University’s Barbara Voss, Ian Hodder, Paulla Ebron, Ian Robertson, and Lynn Meskell likewise inspired the thoughts and interpretations presented in this piece.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyUniversity of Idaho, MoscowMoscowUSA

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