Social Theory In Archaeology

Since the debut of the New Archaeology in the 1960s, approaches to the science of interpreting the material past have proliferated.

Seeking to find common ground in an increasingly fractious and polarized discipline, a group of archaeological theorists representing various schools of thought gathered in a roundtable, during the fall of 1997. As organizer, Michael Schiffer sought to build bridges that might begin to span the conceptual chasms that have formed in archaeology during the past few decades. Many participants in the roundtable accepted the challenge of building bridges, but some rejected the premise that bridge building is desirable or feasible. Even so, every chapter in the resulting volume contributes something provocative or significant to the enterprise of constructing social theory in archaeology and setting the agenda for future social-theoretic research.

With contributions from every major school of thought, whether informed by evolutionary theory, feminism, chaos theory, behavioralism, or post-processualism, this volume serves as both handbook to an array of theoretical approaches and as a useful look at each school’s response to criticism.

Michael Brian Schiffer is professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona, Tucson. He is the author of Behavioral Archaeology (University of Utah Press, 1995) and Formation Processes of the Archaeological Record (University of Utah Press, 1996).

Table of Contents:

Preface and Acknowledgments

1. Social Theory in Archaeology: Building Bridges ~ Michael Brian Schiffer
2. Revisiting Power, Labor Rights, and Kinship: Archaeology and Social Theory ~ Jeanne E. Arnold
3. Corporate/Network: New Perspectives on Models of Political Action and the Puebloan Southwest ~ Gary M. Feinman
4. Abandonment: Conceptualization, Representation, and Social Change ~ Margaret C. Nelson
5. Elements of a Behavioral Ecological Paradigm for the Study of Prehistoric Hunter-Gatherers ~ Robert L. Kelly
6. Food, Lies, and Paleoanthropology: Social Theory and the Evolution of Sharing in Humans ~ Stephen L. Kuhn and Catherine Sarther
7. On What People Make of Places: A Behavioral Cartography ~ María Nieves Zedeño
8. Strange Attractors: Feminist Theory, Nonlinear Systems Theory, and Their Implications for Archaeological Theory ~ Suzanne M. Spencer-Wood
9. Evolutionary Archaeology: Reconstructing and Explaining Historical Lineages ~ Michael J. O'Brien and R. Lee Lyman
10. Reconfiguring the Social, Reconfiguring the Material ~ Julian Thomas
11. Ideas Are Like Burgeoning Grains on a Young Rice Stalk: Some Ideas on Theory in Anthropological Archaeology ~ Susan Kus


Praise and Reviews:
"Social Theory in Archaeology is an important contribution to the theoretical debates in archaeology. Professional archaeologists will find it challenging and rewarding to read. It is an excellent book to use in graduate seminars because it raises fundamental questions about the nature and importance of social theory in archaeology."—Journal of Anthropological Research

"Every chapter in Social Theory in Archaeology is well executed and worthy of a careful reading. As a collection, the volume spans the theoretical breadth of the field and will be useful reference for graduate-level classes in archaeological theory."—American Antiquity