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Ideologies in Archaeology

Reinhard Bernbeck

Publication Year: 2011

Archaeologists have often used the term ideology to vaguely refer to a “realm of ideas.” Scholars from Marx to Zizek have developed a sharper concept, arguing that ideology works by representing—or misrepresenting—power relations through concealment, enhancement, or transformation of real social relations between groups. Ideologies in Archaeology examines the role of ideology in this latter sense as it pertains to both the practice and the content of archaeological studies. While ideas like reflexive archaeology and multivocality have generated some recent interest, this book is the first work to address in any detail the mutual relationship between ideologies of the past and present ideological conditions producing archaeological knowledge.

Contributors to this volume focus on elements of life in past societies that “went without saying” and that concealed different forms of power as obvious and unquestionable. From the use of burial rites as political theater in Iron Age Germany to the intersection of economics and elite power in Mississippian mound building, the contributors uncover complex manipulations of power that have often gone unrecognized. They show that Occam’s razor—the tendency to favor simpler explanations—is sometimes just an excuse to avoid dealing with the historical world in its full complexity.

Jean-Paul Demoule’s concluding chapter echoes this sentiment and moreover brings a continental European perspective to the preceding case studies. In addition to situating this volume in a wider history of archaeological currents, Demoule identifies the institutional and cultural factors that may account for the current direction in North American archaeology. He also offers a defense of archaeology in an era of scientific relativism, which leads him to reflect on the responsibilities of archaeologists.

Includes contributions by: Susan M. Alt, Bettina Arnold, Uzi Baram, Reinhard Bernbeck, Matthew David Cochran, Jean-Paul Demoule, Kurt A. Jordan, Susan Kus, Vicente Lull, Christopher N. Matthews, Randall H. McGuire, Rafael Micó, Cristina Rihuete Herrada, Paul Mullins, Sue Novinger, Susan Pollock, Victor Raharijaona, Roberto Risch, Kathleen Sterling, Ruth M. Van Dyke, and LouAnn Wurst

Published by: University of Arizona Press


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pp. v-vi

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Ideology and Archaeology: Between Imagination and Relational Practice

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pp. 1-12

In his well-known essay Man Makes Himself, V. Gordon Childe (1936: 134) wrote that “war helped in a great discovery—that men as well as animals can be domesticated. Instead of killing a defeated enemy, he might be enslaved.” Generations of students and scholars seem to have...

I. Complex Relations: Archaeologists’ Ideologies and Those of Their Subjects

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1. A Conceptual History of Ideology and Its Place in Archaeology

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pp. 15-59

The history of the notion of ideology is as convoluted as the many attempts to define the concept. Our account points out the relationship of this history to early anthropology and archaeology. We highlight the nineteenth- and twentieth-century intellectual histories that constitute...

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2. A Hegemonic Struggle of Cosmological Proportions: The Traditional House of the Malagasy Highlands in the Face of Indigenous and Foreign Regimes

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pp. 60-89

In the days of the dominant “materialist ideologies” of systems theory, optimal foraging, cultural and behavioral ecology, political economy, and similar explanatory doctrines, the realm of worldviews and symbols and their specific cultural content was often of minor theoretical import. ...

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3. The Archaeology of “Shoppertainment”: Ideology, Empowerment, and Place in Consumer Culture

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pp. 90-106

Lauren Langman (1992: 40) argues that “every historical epoch has distinct ways of organizing time, space, behavior, and subjectivity. These converge in its principal architectural sites and public spaces that articulate cultural texts of meaning, identity and power.” ...

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4. Archaeology in the Public Interest: Tourist Effects and Other Paradoxes That Come with Heritage Tourism

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pp. 107-129

Archaeology is popular, as many have noticed, and as Holtorf (2007) has recently celebrated in Archaeology Is a Brand! Popular interest can be, and has been, yoked to support for archaeological excavations and stewardship of archaeological sites, bringing archaeology to the public. ...

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5. Imperial Ideologies and Hidden Transcripts: A Case from Akkadian-Period Mesopotamia

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pp. 130-150

When we think of ideology and archaeology, it is mostly to ask how and why we investigate ideologies in the past and how doing so enables us to better understand past societies. These are worthwhile endeavors, but they are far from being the only places where ideology enters archaeology. ...

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6. The Illusion of Power, the Power of Illusion: Ideology and the Concretization of Social Difference in Early–Iron Age Europe

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pp. 151-172

West-central European societies in the pre-Roman Iron Age (table 6.1, figure 6.1) have several characteristics that make them an ideal context within which to problematize ideology in action as manifested in the material-culture remains of sociopolitical power: ...

II. Ideological Dimensions of Archaeological Discourse

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7. Inventing Human Nature

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pp. 175-193

Since the late nineteenth century, anthropology, particularly archaeological and paleoanthropological studies and the ethnography of hunter-gatherers, has changed our understanding of what it means to be human. A question that was theological or philosophical found new answers in science. ...

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8. Histories of Mound Building and Scales of Explanation in Archaeology

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pp. 194-211

The explanations we construct to explain past lives reflect the theories, methodologies, and ideologies that underlie our investigations. Of these, researchers’ ideologies are usually the least explicit. It is true that in anthropology, ideologies have been addressed via debates over gender biases...

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9. Secularism as Ideology: Exploring Assumptions of Cultural Equivalence in Museum Repatriation

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pp. 212-232

The concepts sacred and secular are standard tools in contemporary social and cultural analysis. A secularist tendency that eschews overt pronunciations of religious faith is a particular hallmark of modern science, Marxism, multiculturalism, and most present-day archaeological analysis. ...

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10. Imagined Pasts Imagined: Memory and Ideology in Archaeology

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pp. 233-253

My task in this paper is to examine the relationships between ideology and a burgeoning archaeological interest in social memory. I see ideology and social memory as intersecting and overlapping constructs. At the scale of our individual lives, we know ourselves through our experiences...

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11. Hidden Boundaries: Archaeology, Education, and Ideology in the United States

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pp. 254-269

This article is about archaeology and education in the United States and the ideologies that structure us to perceive the intersection of these realms in certain ways; it also includes some thoughts as to how we can better tune into the silent music of schools in their role as an ideological...

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12. Ideology, Archaeology

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pp. 270-293

Ideology pervades all forms of social practice, including theoretical reasoning and scientific practice. This chapter will first define ideology and the place it occupies in ways of thinking and acting. We define ideology as thought that always refers directly or indirectly to a given material reality. ...

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13. Commentary: Can Archaeology Change Society?

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pp. 294-311

It is a great pleasure to read the contributions in this volume, and I deeply thank the editors for having given me the opportunity to comment on them. My task is enjoyable for several interrelated reasons. The volume provides a European reader like myself with a good idea of current...


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pp. 313-389

About the Editors

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pp. 391-392

About the Contributors

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pp. 393-400

Index [Includes Back Cover]

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pp. 401-410

E-ISBN-13: 9780816502301
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816526734

Publication Year: 2011