Ungendering Civilization

Ungendering Civilization

Ungendering Civilization

Ungendering Civilization

Synopsis

With nine papers examining a distinct body of archaeological data, Ungendering Civilization offers a much needed scrutiny of the role of women in the evolution of states.Studying societies including Predynastic Egypt, Minoan Crete, ancient Zimbabwe and the Maya - to determine what the facts actually show, the contributors critically address traditional views of male and female roles, and argue for the possibility that the root historical cause of gender subordination is participation in modern world system, rather than 'innate' tendencies to domesticity and child-rearing in women, and leadership and aggression in men.With an interdisciplinary potential, students of archaeology, cultural studies and gender studies will find this full of useful information.

Excerpt

This book began as a seminar at Indiana University. I had an idea that we might learn something if we looked at several cultures at the point in their history when evidence of status distinctions is first recognizable in their material record. I expected that we would find little that was concrete, as indeed turned out to be the case, and that what evidence we found would show clearly that women constituted a subordinate class. Much to my surprise, we did not find clear support for this. What we did find was that most archaeologists expect to find it, and without testing the premise, simply assume that it is supported when they interpret their data.

As the participants worked through the literature on gender in early states, another issue became clear. Assumptions about gender and the division of labor in ancient cultures provide an excellent example of how the typological reasoning of cultural evolutionary explanations predetermines and drastically limits what we can know about the past. So while this book addresses the issue of the role of women in the evolution of states, we also question the fundamental assumption that there is much usefulness in teleological generalizations. Discounting assumptions about the division of labor causes the typology of cultural evolutionism to unravel. On the other hand, inspecting the intellectual history of such categories as race, gender, and chiefdom is a good empirical exercise which reveals the political usefulness that accounts for their never-ending popularity among western academics. Power comes not from being at the apex of the hierarchy of types, but from the ability to name and identify the types. a typology of people, whether organizational or biological, limits scholarly awareness of variation; in fact it limits our ability to see that the categories may actually be wrong. On the other hand, when these categories are reified in the context of political power, whether in an academic department or in a colonial plantation, human possibility is molded and constrained.

This book addresses an intellectual division among archaeologists interested in societies with monumental architecture and written histories. On the one side are those who equate evolutionary models of cultural change with empirical science. They hold that ignoring the impact of natural selection on social structure or the biological basis of gender differences is a

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