cover image

Alliance Rises in the West

Labor, Race, and Solidarity in Industrial California

Charlotte K. Sunseri

Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Imprint: University of Nebraska Press
Published: 12/2020
Pages: 180
Subject: Social Science
eBook ISBN: 9781496223272


Alliance Rises in the West documents the experiences of a company town at a critical moment in the rise of working-class consciousness in nineteenth-century California. Through archaeological research Charlotte K. Sunseri overcomes the silence of the documentary record to re-examine the mining frontier at Mono Mills, a community of multiple ethnic and racial groups, predominantly Chinese immigrants and Kudzadika Paiutes. The rise of political, economic, and social alliances among workers symbolized solidarity and provided opportunity to effect change in this setting of unequal power. Urban planning and neighborhood layout depict company structures of control and surveillance, while household archaeology from ethnically distinct neighborhoods speaks to lived experiences and how working-class identities emerged to crosscut ethnic and racial divides imposed in capitalism. Mono Mills's Paiute and Chinese communities experienced exclusionary legislation and brutal treatment on the basis of racial prejudice but lived alongside and built community with European American laborers, managers, and merchants who were also on an economic periphery. These experiences in Mono Mills and other nineteenth-century company towns did not occur in a vacuum; capitalists' control and ideologies of race and class all doubled down as American workers used collective action to change the rules of the system. In this rare, in-depth perspective, close consideration of the ghost towns that dot the landscape of the West shows the haunting elements of capitalism and racial structures that characterized Gilded Age society and whose legacies endure to this day.  


Charlotte K. Sunseri is an associate professor of anthropology at San Jose State University.


"Alliance Rises in the West makes a significant contribution to the archaeology and history of labor, race, and the politics of alliance of industrial communities in the American West."—Donald L. Hardesty, author of Mining Archaeology in the American West: A View from the Silver State

"Sunseri's book makes a very important contribution to the field of historical archaeology in the West and offers a broad set of contributions to historical archaeology globally and to our understanding of intersubjectivity in the past. Sunseri masterfully sweeps research that is far ranging across the fields of ethnicity, race, class, and, most significantly, labor."—Carolyn L. White, editor of The Materiality of Individuality: Archaeological Studies of Individual Lives