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For this assignment, you will be applying research principles of archaeology to modern American culture, focusing on consumption and waste. To complete this assignment, you will need to look at some of the trash that we produce in America and consider questions about why and how this waste is generated, and the larger forces at play. You will also need to consider where the destination of your “assemblage” will end up, and why, and put this into historical context.
Start by watching the following YouTube video to contextualize this assignment: The Story of Stuff.
Select two to three pieces of garbage generated across the life of an American college student, broadly, for the purpose of this assignment. You will write about these items and consider where they come from, and why they are considered “trash”. It can be from your own residence, or something you document in your day-to-day life (i.e., trash discarded outside your apartment or door room, on a street corner, etc.). You do not have to touch anything for this assignment and should not especially if it is not your trash; just use your eyes!
Examples of common trash items (but not limited to): Cardboard boxes, food packaging, takeout food containers, broken household items, cardboard tubes, household supply containers, furniture etc.
The write-up should be a minimum of 500 words (2 double-spaced pages) describing the items of your choice and the following information.
Background and Introduction: Introduce us to the items you picked, where you found them, and any brief background information about the items. Provide at least one photo of each item you discuss in this section to provide context for your research.
Methods: Talk about where you located the items and why you believe they were there. Describe the appearance of them, how they appear in the environment, and any other general observations you can make without assuming how somebody used it or why they threw it away (i.e., avoid speculating in this section why someone threw away a plastic coffee cup from a retail store – just observe what it is made of, where it is, and how it appears). Analysis: Talk about the function of the items as you understand them and why, and what might happen to these items that would have them no longer serve its function or purpose. Why is the item considered trash? How often do you think college students generate these items as garbage and why? What forces are at play in the generation of the trash? Use vocabulary and concepts from the archaeology lectures and book chapters as appropriate when discussing your thoughts on the objects.
Conclusions: Summarize the conclusions you can make based on your observations. What can your archaeological assemblage tell us about American college student culture if anything? How does material culture help in understanding the larger culture behind the objects it produces?