Essential Tensions in Archaeological Method and Theory

Archaeological theory, some say, seems to have fragmented into a thousand fundamentalisms. By working on a broader set of empirical issues than ever before, archaeologists are indeed applying and refining a variety of perspectives. Yet the editors of this volume make a case that it is appropriate for archaeologists to use a logical variety of theoretical structures to answer different kinds of questions, combining approaches as necessary.

In that spirit of plurality, contributors to this volume identify an important theoretical or methodological problem and present an argument regarding its solution. They also provide a critical evaluation of the current state of archaeological method and theory, illustrating that such recurrent issues as the role of agency and the importance of social considerations in the formation of archaeological research dominate current theoretical development.

By presenting both the range of important questions and a variety of answers, this volume contributes to the 'essential tension' that will further the growth of archaeological theory.

Table of Contents:
List of Figures
List of Tables

Introduction: Method, Theory, and the Essential Tension ~ Christine S. VanPool and Todd L. VanPool

1. Archaeology as a Discontinuous Domain ~ Ian Hodder
2. Archaeology and the Problems of Men ~ Dean J. Saitta
3. The Origins of Questions in Historical Archaeology ~ Mark Leone
4. Rethinking Style in Archaeology ~ Jerimy J. Cunningham
5. Materiality and the Immaterial in Historical-Processual Archaeology ~ Timothy R. Pauketat
6. Back to Basics: The Middle-Range Program as Pragmatic Archaeology ~ Philip J. Arnold III
7. Biological Evolutionary Theory and Individual Decision-Making ~ John Kantner
8. Agency and Evolution: The Role of Intended and Unintended Consequences of Action ~ Todd L. VanPool and Christine S. VanPool
9. Resolving Phylogeny: Evolutionary Archaeology's Fundamental Issue ~ Michael J. O'Brien and R. Lee Lyman
10. Does Americanist Archaeology Have a Future? ~ Patty Jo Watson
11. Essential Tensions ~ Robert D. Leonard

References Cited 

Praise and Reviews:
 "These papers demonstrate both the benefits that can result from a pluralistic approach and the great difficulties involved in implementing it. They also anticipate what will probably be the next great debate among archaeologists: is pluralism an end in itself or will materialist/idealist dichotomies be replaced by an integrated social science megatheory? A thought-provoking read!"
—Bruce Trigger, McGill University