Theory and Practice in Archaeology

Theory and Practice in Archaeology

Theory and Practice in Archaeology

Theory and Practice in Archaeology

Synopsis

In this latest collection of his articles, of which seven are written especially for this volume, Ian Hodder captures and continues the lively controversy of the 1980s over symbolic and structural approaches to archaeology. The book acts as an overview of the developments in the discipline over the last decade; yet Hodder's brief is far wider. His aim is to break down the division between the intellectual and the "dirt" archaeologist to demonstrate that in this discipline more than any other, theory must be related to practice to save effectively our rapidly diminishing heritage.

Excerpt

The Material Cultures series crosses the traditional subject boundaries of archaeology, history and anthropology to consider human society in terms of its production, consumption and social structures. This approach breaks down the narrow compartmentalization which has until now obscured understanding of past and present societies and offers a more broadly-based (and coherent) set of explanations.

The series has developed from frustration with the conceptual limits imposed by a structure of separate disciplines. These divisions make little sense when so much of the most valuable work in many areas-in archaeology, consumption studies, architecture, muscology, human geography, anthropology and communication science-grows from common roots and a shared intellectual framework.

The thrust of the series is to develop concepts necessary for understanding cultural and social form; but the editors' approach reverses the primacy often given to linguistic over material structures. This is deliberate after all, although structuralism borrowed from linguistics it took its most original shape through Lévi-Strauss's studies of kinship, myth and ritual. More recently a parallel process has taken place in architecture, which has been a crucial focus in the development of theories of post-modernism. This suggests that there are many advantages in attempting to construct approaches to the material world which consciously proclaim the distinctive nature of objects as against language.

This approach, central to all the books in the series, should be of particular benefit to those studies (like archaeology) which have artifacts as their main focus. But materiality provides new perceptions of cultural context over a much wider range of subject matter. It demands a conscious process of linking together the techniques and strategies of other disciplines. For example, a recognition of the issues of gender will infuse an historically based study with a deeper set of meanings; set the same work within an anthropological framework as well, and its value (and insights) are enhanced.

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