The Political Landscape: Constellations of Authority in Early Complex Polities

The Political Landscape: Constellations of Authority in Early Complex Polities

The Political Landscape: Constellations of Authority in Early Complex Polities

The Political Landscape: Constellations of Authority in Early Complex Polities

Synopsis

"This highly original and challenging book defies every easy form of classification. Ostensibly about early polities, its penetrating and erudite asides extend with equal facility into contemporary politics and the symmetrical deficiencies of modernism and postmodernism. To my knowledge, imaginative reflections of spatial representations have never previously found their way into the theoretical base of what has been thought of as an essentially materialistic archaeological science. It is a pleasure and a discovery to see the permanent and rightful place Adam Smith has now fashioned for them."--Robert McC. Adams, Secretary Emeritus, The Smithsonian Institution

"If social theory in cultural anthropology was transformed in the last decades by a "linguistic turn," research by archaeologists into the development and practices of early states now seems to be undergoing a "geographic turn." Adam Smith's book, although drawing from modern currents in geography, anthropology, sociology, and political philosophy, brings original archaeological contributions to social theory by examining the making and re-making of landscapes in early complex polities (especially in Mesopotamian, Urartian, and Maya states). Smith observes these (and other) early states as "political landscapes," in which monuments come to constitute authority and shape memories. Smith's book represents a comprehensive turn from metahistorical reifications of the state to investigations of how the content of social roles was determined through the production of landscapes. The landscape of archaeology will be changed decisively by this book."--Norman Yoffee, Professor, Dept. of Near Eastern Studies and Dept. of Anthropology,University of Michigan.

"This book emerges as both a remarkable scholarly achievement and something of a manifesto for contemporary political thinking and engagement."--Susan E. Alcock, author of "Archaeologies of the Greek P

Excerpt

Space is the mark of new history and the measure of work now afoot is the depth of the perception of space.

Charles Olson, “Notes for the Proposition: Man Is Prospective”

Charles Olson, poet and precocious postmodernist, was wrong. Although his call in 1948 to spatialize our understanding of the human past is regularly trotted out as an intellectual precursor to late-twentieth-century trends in social and literary theory, it would be difficult to argue at present that space has indeed become central to historical reflection. This is particularly the case for investigations of early complex polities—ancient political formations in which authority was predicated on radical social inequality, legitimated in reference to enduring representations of order, and vested in robust institutions of centralized governance. Despite halting movements toward geographic critiques of modernity, the vast horizon of human experience beyond the reach of the modern remains without a clearly theorized sense of spatiality. Just one year after Olson issued his exhortation, the publication of Leslie White's The Science of Culture signaled a profound intellectual move within anthropology toward neoevolutionary accounts of human history that hinged on sublimating spatial difference. the goal of this enterprise was to establish the foundational temporal currents within human cultural development (what Robert Wright [2000] has termed “the logic of human destiny”). Only in the past decade has this sublimated sense of space encountered philosophical re-

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