Economies Past, Present, and Future

Project: New Almaden’s Workers: Life in a Company Town.

Principal Investigator: Charlotte Sunseri

Client/Partner: Santa Clara County Regional State Parks

Summary: This project explores the roots of class consciousness in an insular company town, to look at the experiences of working-class communities in the Spanishtown, Englishtown, and Hacienda neighborhoods. This project looks at working-class identities in New Almaden (now Almaden Quicksilver County Park of Santa Clara) through archaeological excavation, material culture studies, and interviews with town residents. New Almaden was a paternalistic company town with social control and stark idealism, and I’m interested in workers’ perceptions of the company’s influence and policies; daily experiences as workers built a sense of place and identity; and ways that workers negotiated, accommodated, or resisted capitalist structures and company control. Contributions include 1) describing working-class experiences; 2) social theorizing of pluralism and labor hierarchies which played a direct role in shaping the California of today; and 3) enhancing multivocality about the past to impact current cultural production linked to heritage. The primary activities of data collection and analysis will be completed through archaeological field schools (ANTH 169) offered in summer months, punctuated by Fall and Spring semester projects involving analysis of artifacts, oral histories, and archival collections.

Timeline: 2021-2024

Funding: In part, will operate as a summer course.

Outcomes: Several potential MA projects or theses, planned book manuscript and journal articles.

Student Opportunities: There are opportunities for funded student research assistantships and individual student MA projects and theses.

Project: Loma Prieta Mill Project. A study in labor, immigration, and industrial archaeology of 19th century timber industry in California.

Principal Investigator: Marco Meniketti

Partner: California State Parks and Recreation

Summary: Students could develop advanced undergraduate or graduate thesis projects based on material culture, GIS based spatial analysis, forensics, and faunal analysis.

Funding: Self-funded as Summer course and FLP program.

Timeline: 2015-2017

Student Opportunities: Students could develop complementary projects in new partnerships with Cal State Parks or engage with material culture studies. Leadership opportunities as field supervisors and field staff.

Student Researchers: Colin Jaramillo, Rebecca Spitzer [pdf], Ariana Heathcote [pdf]

Project: Entrepreneurship, Self-Reliance, and Economic (In)security

SJSU Principal Investigator(s): Melissa Beresford

Client/Partner: N/A

Summary: This project examines how under-resourced and economically marginalized communities mobilize entrepreneurship (both formal and informal) to secure livelihood and fight for economic justice. The project builds off of Dr. Beresford’s ethnographic research in Cape Town, South Africa, which examines cultural models and uses of entrepreneurship as a response to resource insecurities caused by racial capitalism. Students interested in researching how people think about, mobilize, or experience entrepreneurship, in the U.S. and/or around the world, are encouraged to contact Dr. Beresford about joining this project.

Funding: U.S. National Science Foundation

Timeline: Ongoing

Student Opportunities: There are opportunities for MA projects and student theses that uses and/or builds off of this data set.

Project: California Maritime Cultural Landscapes. A study of historic industry and maritime culture on the west coast.

Principal Investigator: Marco Meniketti

Partner: Various, including California State Parks. INHA (Mexico), NOAA.

Summary: Statewide documentation and interpretation of maritime communities and historical industries from ethnographic and archaeological perspectives. Analysis of historical maritime groups, such as Italian fishermen, Portuguese shore whalers, Chinese abalone hunters, timber schooners and doghole communities. Also, historic Spanish explorers and indigenous communities.

Funding: Variable, including RSCA research funds.

Timeline: 2015-current

Student Opportunities: Students can pursue ethnographic, GIS, or archaeological documentation of California’s maritime industries, pre-historic and historic societies. Students can contribute directly to publications or develop thesis projects. Students may also work with XRF sampling of artifacts.

Student Researchers: Cathy Mistely, Karen Johansson, Sean Davis, Amanda Jorgenson, Leslie Hoefert.

Project: The Anthropology of Homelessness and Housing Futures in San José

Principal Investigator(s): A.J. Faas, Co-PI John Marlovits

Client/Partner: HomeFirst San José, San José Downtown Association, Downtown Streets

Summary: Our project objective is to address three broad topics: the production of homelessness; how the homeless camp and alternative housing futures are produced and sustained; and the production of housing futures beyond the camp. Our approach to studying the production of homelessness can be broadly characterized as examining a networked institutional ecology; that is, we are conducting life history interviews with homeless (and recently homeless) individuals to learn about their life paths and the relational, institutional, and spatial networks they navigate on the paths to homelessness. Our approach to studying how homeless camps are produced and sustained is threefold: (a) participant observation in camps to document how camps are built, maintained, displaced, and reproduced over time; (b) qualitative network interviews to study formal support resources and everyday varieties of mutual aid, reciprocity, and protection among the homeless, with attention to how relations endure or are reconstituted through/following processes of displacement; and (c) photo-voice interviews to understand the material culture of encampments, including how materials flow into and out of the camp, and the production of identity through human relationships with materials. Our approach to studying housing futures involves documenting how pathways to housing futures are imagined and operationalized by homeless (and recently homeless) individuals, city and county government, nonprofit organizations, and advocacy groups.

Funding: Pending

Timeline: 2019-2024

Student Opportunities: There are opportunities for funded student research assistantships and individual student MA projects and theses. Please contact A.J. Faas (

Student Researchers: Sana Rahim, Kiley Stokes, Carey van Tran, Elizabeth Baseman

Project: Reengineering Nature in Silicon Valley

Principal Investigator(s): J.A. English-Lueck (SJSU)

Client/Partner: Silicon Valley Cultures Project

Summary: This project is primarily an academic research project, although it has implications for the forecasters at the Institute for the Future and the Food Innovation program.  Building on more than 25 years of ethnographic inquiry into the cultures of Silicon Valley, the project looks at the lives of workers who participate in the countercultural and artistic life of Silicon Valley, and the research, design and implementation of food, ag, and clean tech endeavors.  Internet of Things and Virtual Reality technologies combine sensors and versions of lived experience.  These researchers are interviewing artists and engineers, community advocates and designers to better understand how they merge their distinct visions of the future with the work they do. What values are these workers bringing to their work? Geography faculty Kerry Rohrmeier is collaborating with English-Lueck to explore the relationship of Silicon Valley to Burning Man.  English-Lueck is also teaming up with interested alumni, undergraduate and graduate researchers, and Mass Communications faculty Tina Korani to document these stories.  The project will result in an academic production such as a book and article, and a co-authored innovative virtual reality installation and proceeding article for the Southwestern Anthropological Association meeting and other venues.

Funding: SJSU RSCA, Carnegie Pending

Timeline: 2018-2021

Student Opportunities: There are opportunities for individual undergraduate student projects and graduate 280 and MA projects. Contact J.A. English-Lueck (

Student Researchers: Ella Babin, Cheryl Cowan, Jillian Ferini, Ian Torres, Andrew Marley, Daniel E. Maldonado, Kevin Kochever, Jasmine Low, Melanie Bailey, and Christophe Gonzales.