All aboard! An archaeological approach to Belgian diaspora communities in the United States of America

15 October 2017 → 14 October 2021
Regional and community funding: Special Research Fund
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Archaeology
    • Theory and methodology of archaeology
    • Other history and archaeology
diaspora communities
Project description

Over the course of the 19th and early 20th century, over 30 million Europeans would settle in Canada or the USA. The port of Antwerp functioned as one of the major hubs from which those people departed. Indeed, between 1843 and 1913 over 2.7 million people embarked on boats
leaving for the New World. The Belgians amongst these migrants are cautiously estimated at 200.000. Many of them originated from the region to the north of Ghent and eventually settled in the Midwest, in the area surrounding the Great Lakes. I intend to make that very same journey. I
will be leaving Ghent for research in the US. The research question that is central to this project pertains to the way in which these immigrants expressed group identities in their material, everyday lives, and how this expression of identity changed over time. These issues are evaluated
on three different scales, that of material culture, architecture and landscape. In doing so, this project contributes to the broader discussion on hybridized and retained cultural practices using archaeological remains, pioneers in the historical archaeology of Continental Europe and gives an incentive to preserve this rich, but ill-known 'Belgian' heritage. Communication to the wider public finally livens the awareness of a Flemish or Walloon background in younger generations in the US and of the migratory nature of their ancestors with Belgian youth.