Reading the Past: Current Approaches to Interpretation in Archaeology

By Ian Hodder; Scott Hutson | Go to book overview

5
Agency and practice

Practice and structuration

In outlining a 'theory of practice', Bourdieu (1977) notes the difference between, on the one hand, observing and analysing social events, and, on the other hand, participating in activities. Structuralism, for example, allows us to see how pattern is generated, but gives us no indication of how we make relevant use of structures in constantly changing situations. Giddens (1979; 1981) is also concerned to escape notions of change which involve the playing out of some pre-set code.

Both Bourdieu and Giddens thus develop theories of practice or social action, called by Giddens 'structuration', in which there is a recursive relationship between structure and practice. Bourdieu's account is of particular relevance to archaeologists because he develops his theory in relation to material culture and the use of space. Indeed his ideas have been applied in ethnoarchaeology by, for example, Donley (1982), Moore (1982), and Braithwaite (1982), and in archaeology by Barrett (1981) and Davis (1984).

Bourdieu situates the notion of the habitus, a term first coined by Marcel Mauss (1973 [1935]), between structure and practice. However, any attempt to define the habitus (singular and plural) goes against the grain of Bourdieu's project. As part of his challenge to certain types of objectivism, Bourdieu argues that a concept is understood through its use: any attempt to formalise it – to step back from the context of use and construct a rule that systematises the ways it is used – misrecognizes the ambiguity and unpredictability of the situations in which the concept is exercised. Nevertheless, we can provisionally understand the habitus as systems of durable but transposable dispositions, including, for example, a sense of honour, but also left/right, up/down and other structuring principles. The habitus are strategy generating propensities

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Reading the Past: Current Approaches to Interpretation in Archaeology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface to the First Edition xi
  • Preface to the Second Edition xv
  • Preface to the Third Edition xvii
  • 1: The Problem 1
  • 2: Processual and Systems Approaches 20
  • 3: Structuralist, Post-Structuralist and Semiotic Archaeologies 45
  • 4: Marxism and Ideology 75
  • 5: Agency and Practice 90
  • 6: Embodied Archaeology 106
  • 7: Archaeology and History 125
  • 8: Contextual Archaeology 156
  • 9: Post-Processual Archaeology 206
  • 10: Conclusion: Archaeology as Archaeology 236
  • Bibliography 248
  • Index 284
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