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67 4 • Methods for a Critical Archaeology of Everyday Life For Lefebvre, as with all of the everyday life theorists discussed in this book, everyday life cannot be understood at an abstract theoretical level. Theoretical insights must complement a deep commitment to furthering empirical studies. Given the goal of confronting academics with life, everyday life scholarship pays particular attention to the relationship between theory, methods, and data. Theory does not stand alone as an abstraction but is deeply implicated in how researchers use theory and what data they bring to it. Because data and theory are mutually implicated, everyday life thinkers have always been as concerned with the development of methods as they have been with the development of theory. The same is true within the field of archaeology. A critical everyday life approach must be grounded as much in empirical work as in theory. Postprocessual archaeologists initially made the point that archaeological data are theory laden: data are not neutral but informed by theoretical perspectives, the questions researchers do and do not bring to them, and what researchers decide does and does not constitute evidence (Hodder 1999; Johnson 2010a). De Certeau (1984: 43–77) makes the interesting corollary point that theory is also data laden: theoreticians create theory in the world within which they live and are influenced by what they see around them and what they know about the world. Thus, as much as data is influenced by theory, theory is also influenced by data. Wylie (1992) makes a similar point in her discussion of the “evidential constraints” on archaeological knowledge: while data are not neutral, they can and do constrain what archaeologists can say is possible about the past. While everyday life thinkers note that analyses cannot stop at simple (or complex ) descriptions of everyday life, the absence of such descriptions is 68 · Everyday Life Matters: Maya Farmers at Chan disabling, because without an evidential basis for what everyday life is like, theories will simply perpetuate prevailing understandings of the banality of everyday life or other prevailing understandings. Theory does not reside in some higher intellectual domain or exist subjectively locked inside researchers’ heads; it arises from researchers’ practical engagement with the world and others around them across their everyday lives. Just as data are both subjective and objective, theory too is both subjective and objective. Given the interpenetration of data and theory, subjectivity and objectivity, theory can guide what researchers choose to accept and look for as data, and data can place constraints on what researchers might say is theoretically possible. This chapter develops archaeological methods and research design to further a critical archaeology of everyday life. I focus largely on insights from the Chan project but also draw upon complementary examples from other archaeological projects. A critical archaeology of everyday life involves an intensive archaeological process from the beginning (designing research) to the end (publication) of that process. It involves long-term research projects and extended field seasons whereby researchers can immerse themselves in the archaeological record of past everyday lives (as well as present everyday lives). It involves collaborative research in which insights beyond those of the primary researchers’ field(s) can enhance the “conceptual integrity and empirical adequacy” of research (Wylie 1992: 15). It involves a deep and detailed engagement with the archaeological record through archaeological methods such as horizontal (open area) excavation and engagement with new scientific methods that provide extended insights into past everyday life. In ethnographic terms, this intensive archaeology of everyday life opposes Lévi-Strauss’s structuralist position, critiqued by Lefebvre (see chapter 2), that “just a quarter of an hour alone” with someone from another culture is a sufficient basis for interpreting culture. Such a shortterm engagement is insufficient to understand the complexities of everyday life. An intensive archaeology of everyday life is akin to undertaking an archaeological “thick description” (sensu stricto Geertz 1973): a deep and elaborate study of the meaning of what people do, which illustrates that simple actions are much larger than they appear (Robb 2007: 23; Robin 2012b). Archaeologists who focus on everyday life call for a type of archaeological research that is extensive, multiscalar, and often diachronic , and includes as many types of data as possible and fine-grained Methods for a Critical Archaeology of Everyday Life · 69 inquiries into those data (e.g., Robin 2002a, 2003, 2012a; Hodder and Cessford 2004; Lightfoot et al. 1998: 202; Özbal 2006; Robb 2007: 22–24; Silliman 2004: xv: Voss 2008a: 117–43). A critical...


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