New Digs: Networks, Assemblages, and the Dissolution of Binary Categories in Anthropological Archaeology

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Abstract

Anthropological archaeology has long been a process of categorization. The history of the subdiscipline could be rendered in terms of an ongoing project to create, critique, and then refashion the categories by which archaeologists understand and explain social and ecological processes. Despite ever-changing theoretical tides, many archaeologists have continued to adhere to a lingua franca that demarcates their object of study, whether “the past,” “nature,” complexity, material culture, or historical knowledge. In 2018, strong currents in archaeological scholarship have both challenged and washed out the boundaries of many of these epistemological mainstays. This was more than a postmodern exercise to question metanarratives of history or to destabilize supposed social universals. The recent scholarship develops innovative theoretical perspectives and sophisticated methodological tools to shed light on the varied human interactions, practices, and projects that were previously occluded by research too sharply focused on bounded categories such as periods, polities, adaptations, and meanings. Furthermore, archaeologists are now more than ever critically examining the colonial institutions that they perpetuate and seeking to establish new common ground with Indigenous communities. A decidedly archaeological perspective seems to be taking shape. This is a view that sees social life from the ground up in terms of complicated relationships between people, things, and other organisms that cannot be reduced to catchall categories. [year in review, archaeology, archaeological theory, current issues, Indigenous archaeology, environmental anthropology].

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)447-463
Number of pages17
JournalAmerican Anthropologist
Volume121
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2019

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