Archaeology and the Postcolonial Critique (Archaeology in Society)

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Post-processual archaeology

Summary articles review the emergence of the discipline of archaeology in conjunction with colonialism, critique the colonial legacy evident in continuing archaeological practice around the world, identify current trends, and chart future directions in postcolonial archaeological research. Contributors provide a synthesis of research, thought, and practice on their topic. The articles embrace multiple voices and case study approaches, and have consciously aimed to recognize the utility of comparative work and interdisciplinary approaches to understanding the past.

This is a benchmark volume for the study of the contemporary politics, practice, and ethics of archaeology. Sponsored by the World Archaeological Congress.

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Series Editors Foreword. Introduction Postcolonialism and Archaeology.

Defining the Humanities: Prehistoric Archaeology

Archaeological Narratives of Colonialism. First, I agree that many theoretical approaches, including some that I disagree with strongly, do have some useful points to contribute to scholarship, things that would probably benefit my own work. But on the other hand, as a committed scientist and materialist, I just don't see approaches like postcolonialism or poststructurallism advancing our understanding of the past in a significant way. I see them as putting up smokescreens that obscure and inhibit empirical scholarship on past human social dynamics. If you compare a poststructuralist account of commoner agency in the past with a rational choice account, I think the differences are clear.

In my opinion the poststructuralist account does not explain empirical patterns and argues by assertion, whereas the rational choice account IS explanatory. But these differences are rooted at the epistemological and ontological levels, so logical argument will not resolve them. Idealist humanities-oriented scholars will reject my views out of hand. I just think you are lumping together way too many scholars works under the rubric of post-colonial theory. There is strongly materialist, post-colonial theory, which you are totally ignoring.

The work of Asad, Nash, Harvey, etc. They are all materialist perspectives of the inequalities of production and consumption. They are also historical and can be considered post-colonial. I understand your critique of post-structural theory, but I do not think all post-colonial theory is guilty of your charges. I myself am a rabid materialist, and increasingly so. In my view, there is no reason why the perspectives that emanate from post-colonial theory cannot be targeted from a scientific perspective.

Post-colonial theory does not mean post-modern theory. The latter tends to slash the achilles tendon of archaeology's ability to speak truth to power, thereby reinforcing the power structures postmodern theory seeks to criticize I'm an empirical kind of guy who gets lost among these fine distinctions in theoretical perspectives. Maybe I phrased my comments too broadly.

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What I tried to critique are archaeological applications of postcolonial theory. I have read the examples in my bibliography, and my critique applies to them. Perhaps there are other kinds of postcolonial archaeology that are free from the defects I list.

But I'm not sure exactly what postcolonial theory might contribute to an understanding of, say, ancient imperialism, that the standard materialist social science approaches lack hence my earlier comment about commoner agency. So maybe there are materialist postcolonial theorists out there, beyond archaeology, and perhaps their work could be adapted to contribute to an archaeological understanding of the past.

I'd like to think that I have an open mind about such things, but my gut reaction is, "why bother? I have to say that I am so sick of poststructural theory and practice theory. Just utterly tired of it. I am not necessarily sick of the work of the folks who get cited or the broader intellectual genealogy, but I can't take reading the same old "I will now apply practice theory to There was a really interesting looking article in AA on Oaxaca that I had to just put down before I could even get through the abstract as it claimed to understand something via the application of poststructural theory.

I consider myself fairly well-read, but it is just getting so incredibly superficial. Not helping to understand the past is less relevant than the damned superficiality of intellectual band-waggoning. Drives me nuts. There is no sense of larger problems or connections in ideas The mediocre is becoming the status quo. I like to joke that everytime some writes "I will apply practice" insert typical citations , that an angel loses its wings.


That aside, what does happen is that the collective intellect of academia dies a little I dont know if this is good or bad, but I have noticed that if I talk Post-structural style, I always have rich conversations with cultural anthropologists. If I talk nuts and bolts and catchments and estimates, I am treated like an intellectual gorilla I guess it depends on what kind of cultural anthropologists one is talking to. I don't have any postmodernists or poststructuralists in my department, and colleagues would probably think I was nuts if I started talking that way and I'd have to rehearse heavily.

Topics of conversation around here are more along the lines of social networks, inequality, or the evolution of cooperation. I've just been diving into your blog archives and enjoying some of these well-written rant-ish episodes. I have found exactly the same issues with exactly the same material.

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And unlike your optimistic commenter, haecceities, I don't think this situation will change any time soon. I expect it will get worse, actually. There are strong economic incentives encouraging anthropologists and archaeologists towards obscurantism and nonsense, and lots of people seem to have a problem with genuine scientific approaches, as opposed to approaches that merely adopt a veneer of scientific enterprise.

I can't say I agree that there should be any room for "many perspectives", either. Biology doesn't really allow for "many perspectives" about major theoretical points, and I don't think empirical problems in the human sciences are different in principle to those in biology. There seem to be as many different archaeologies as there are archaeologists.

Whatever one thinks one is doing with archaeology, whatever one believes the archaeological record is able to reveal, appears to me to dictate the approach one takes.

So if you have a scientific question about how people lived in the past eg. But if you want to know why that sheep bone was carved into a human image, you are going to have to ask different questions of the archaeological record and potentially use different kinds of methods to unearth the answers pardon the pun. If you don't believe such answers are possible, then archaeology remains a science. But surely archaeology is different to natural science? Doesn't the fact that the archaeological record was created by those complex creatures, people, necessitate that it is?

Uzma Z. Rizvi - Before the Abstract

Victoria - I view archaeology as a social science, so it shares some traits with the natural sciences and some traits with the humanities. Post a Comment. Saturday, March 5, Postcolonial archaeology takes over the World Archaeology. I really dislike postcolonial theory and postcolonial archaeology, so I was not thrilled to see that the current issue of World Archaeology is devoted to this topic.