Gender and Archaeology: Contesting the Past

Gender and Archaeology: Contesting the Past

Gender and Archaeology: Contesting the Past

Gender and Archaeology: Contesting the Past


Gender and Archaeology is the first volume to critically review the development of this now key topic internationally, across a range of periods and material culture. ^l Roberta Gilchrist explores the significance of the feminist epistemologies. She shows the unique perspective that gender archaeology can bring to bear on issues such as division of labour and the life course. She examines issues of sexuality, and the embodiment of sexual identity. A substantial case study of gender space and metaphor in the medieval English castle is used to draw together and illustrate these issues.


That laugh of hers was the kind of laugh you imagine women having long ago, before they realised they were an oppressed category of people.

Rose Tremain, The Way I Found Her (London: Vintage, 1998)

This book critically reviews the progression of gender archaeology over the last fifteen years. It considers the major themes, common concerns and problems of method that have arisen through the study of gender in a broad range of chronological periods and material culture. The structure of the book is both thematic and sequential: after placing gender archaeology within the intellectual context of feminism and social theory, subsequent chapters trace phases in the development of the subject, including: the significance of the feminist critique of science; study of gender roles and the sexual division of labour; consideration of sexuality and the embodiment of gender identity; and the experience of gender through the lifecourse.

In these pages gender is revealed as a metaphor for relations between men and women: gender is an expression of social practice and beliefs about sexual difference. The act of contesting the past serves as a central image of the book, one addressing the tensions between gender and archaeology. The contested past symbolises an intellectual space in which certainties, fixed categories and rigid boundaries have been collapsed, and where the connections between sex, gender and sexuality will remain contingent. Our readings of the past are contested in order to challenge universal and essentialist gender stereotypes, most familiar among them being woman the gatherer, horticulturalist and gardener. In the medieval case study (Chapter 6) the contested space is a garden, one perceived equivocally: the garden is a place of female segregation, but equally a creative female preserve;

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