Space, Status, and Interaction: Multiscalar Analyses of Officers, Soldiers, and Laundresses at Nineteenth Century Fort Vancouver, Washington
Horton, Elizabeth A.
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In this study I investigated how the mid-19th century American military system at Fort Vancouver and the Vancouver Ordnance Depot, in southwest Washington, created and reinforced the dominant ideology simultaneously within multiple levels of culturally created space. The construction of space as theorized by Lefebvre (1974, 1991) provided a model to understand how cognitive processes produce cultural conceptions of space. As cultural constructs, these spaces and objects embody and reflect conceptualizations of social class, gender, and power relationships. These spaces vary in size, from that of the community level cultural landscape to that of the smallest object, and material culture facilitates this process within each spatial tier through non-verbal distribution of symbolically encoded information. Between 1849 and the mid-1880s, members of the military community operated within a rigid social climate with firm cultural expectations and rules of behavior that were explicitly codified and articulated within the larger Victorian societal culture of gentility. Drawing upon datasets derived from the archaeological record and documentary sources, I examined how the military system reproduced and reinforced culturally idealized class and gender roles, and how these roles structured the lives of military personnel and attached civilians within the military community. Specifically, I identified and analyzed three levels of cultural space at the garrison: the built environment, the household, and the individual. Using historical documents and archaeological evidence, the experiences of both men and women within the highly structured dominant androcentric military paradigm were considered for three military households: junior commissioned officers, non-commissioned officers and laundresses, and enlisted men. It was not only the architectural plan that was intentionally contrived to reflect and express the rigid hierarchical configuration of the Army. Social and economic divisions between personnel were also reproduced at the household and personal levels of space by restricting access to resources (income, fuel, food, and transport) based on military rank. I argue that the physical built environment, internal military resource distribution system, and military regulations, particularly as they pertain to clothing and interpersonnel relationships, provided formal, institutionalized metaphors that embodied and transmitted military values simultaneously at the community, household, and individual levels.