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Hanscam and Buchanan (2023) give us an insightful comparative analysis of Hadrian's Wall and the US/Mexico border wall. Their analysis shows how critically to study and use these long walls in an explicitly political archaeology. I have engaged in archaeology as political action (McGuire 2008), and have researched the materiality of the US/Mexico border while doing humanitarian work along that border (McGuire 2013). Hanscam and Buchanan deftly employ archaeology as a political tool to challenge capitalist ideologies about borders. They plead for a politically relevant archaeology that engages the past to address modern issues. Without such relevance, they fear that archaeology will be made redundant. I emphatically agree with them that an activist archaeology makes our discipline more relevant. I fear, however, that these politics may be our demise rather than our salvation.
In archaeology, a Posthumanism has arisen from the ashes of post-modernism and declared that Marxism is dead in archaeology. Archaeological advocates of the posthumanist theory of Symmetrical Archaeology cherry-pick ideas to dismiss Marxism out of hand without considering the depth and nuances of different Marxist theories. They misrepresent the relational dialectic as oppositional thinking and ignore the fundamental dualism of their own polemic. They equate humans and things by arguing that they share a common ontology. A relational Marxism resolves the dualistic nature of their polemic and shows that things, animals and people may be studied relationally while still recognizing ontological differences. Marxism lives.
At the turn of the twenty-first century, critics suggested that warfare profoundly shaped cultural change in the prehistoric Southwest/Northwest. This challenge was part of a much larger debate concerning violence and warfare before civilization. It has become clear that scholars need to consider violence and warfare to understand the aboriginal history of the Southwest/ Northwest. Increasingly, archaeologists are asking: How did indigenous peoples practice war? How did warfare relate to social organization, adaptation, and religion? How did these relations change over time? Many authors have argued that we best answer these questions in well researched and carefully considered case studies. In Sonora, México, prehispanic peoples constructed terraces on isolated volcanic hills and built rooms, compounds, and other edifices on their summits to create cerros de trincheras. The Cerros de Trincheras and Defense Project mapped and collected Trincheras Tradition cerros de trincheras in Sonora. We used Geographic Information Systems analysis to demonstrate how these cerros de trincheras were defensive, what defenses protected, and how these relationships changed over time. This article compares Trincheras Tradition cerros de trincheras to general models of “primitive “ war, Yuman warfare, Andean Colla pukaras, and New Zealand Maori pas in order to infer a Trinchereño way of war.
Researchers have increasingly promoted an emerging paradigm of Indigenous archaeology, which includes an array of practices conducted by, for, and with Indigenous communities to challenge the discipline's intellectual breadth and political economy. McGhee (2008) argues that Indigenous archaeology is not viable because it depends upon the essentialist concept of “Aboriginalism.” In this reply, we correct McGhee's description of Indigenous Archaeology and demonstrate why Indigenous rights are not founded on essentialist imaginings. Rather, the legacies of colonialism, sociopolitical context of scientific inquiry, and insights of traditional knowledge provide a strong foundation for collaborative and community-based archaeology projects that include Indigenous peoples.
Archaeology, defined as the study of material culture, extends from the first preserved human artefacts up to the present day, and in recent years the ‘Archaeology of the Present’ has become a particular focus of research. On one hand are the conservationists seeking to preserve significant materials and structures of recent decades in the face of redevelopment and abandonment. On the other are those inspired by social theory who see in the contemporary world the opportunity to explore aspects of material culture in new and revealing ways, and perhaps above all the central question of the extent to which material culture — be it in the form of objects or buildings — actively defines the human experience. Victor Buchli's An Archaeology of Socialism takes as its subject a twentieth-century building — the Narkofim Communal House in Moscow — and seeks to understand it in terms of domestic life and changing policies of the Soviet state during the 70 or so years since its construction. Thus Buchli's study not only concerns the meaning of material culture in a modern context, but focuses specifically on the household — or more accurately on a series of households within a single Russian apartment block. A particular interest attaches to the way in which the building was planned to encourage communal living, during a pre-Stalinist phase when the State sought to intervene directly in domestic life through architectural design and the manipulation of material culture. Subsequent political changes brought a revision of modes of living within the Narkofim apartment block, as the residents adjusted and responded to changing political and social pressures and demands. The significance of Buchli's study goes far beyond the confines of Soviet-era Moscow or indeed the archaeology of the modern world. He questions the role and potential danger of social and archaeological theory of the totalizing kind: a natural response perhaps to the experience of the Narkofim Communal House as an exercise in Soviet social engineering. He poses fascinating questions about the relation between individual households and the state ideology, and he emphasizes the role of material culture studies in reaching an understanding of these processes. In the brief essay that opens this Review Feature, Victor Buchli outlines the principal aims and conclusions of An Archaeology of Socialism. The diversity of issues that the book generates is revealed in the series of reviews which follows, touching in particular upon the ways in which routines of daily life — archaeologically visible, perhaps, through the analysis of domestic space — relate to structures of authority in society as a whole.
Rautman's critique of our article “Although They Have Petty Captains They Obey Them Badly: The Dialectics of Prehispanic Western Pueblo Social Organization” (McGuire and Saitta 1996) provides us with an opportunity to clarify some points about our theoretical perspective. Rautman shares our dissatisfaction with attempts to characterize Prehispanic western pueblo social organization as either egalitarian or hierarchical. She, however, questions our dismissal of processual theory and our advocacy of a dialectical approach to the problem. She proposes instead an alternative approach that relies on the concept of heterarchy. We have little problem with the use of heterarchy as a descriptive label for late Prehispanic pueblo social organization, but we desire a more dynamic understanding of that organization than the concept of heterarchy allows. We find that understanding in a dialectical approach.
Southwestern archaeologists have debated the nature of late Prehispanic western pueblo social organization for nearly a century. Were the fourteenth-century pueblos egalitarian or hierarchical? This issue remains unsettled largely because of the oppositional thinking that has informed most contributions to the debate: that is, the tendency to frame questions about Prehispanic sociopolitical organization in dichotomous “either-or” terms. We critique this approach to the problem and examine one of the most prominent controversies about Prehispanic social organization: the Grasshopper Pueblo-Chavez Pass controversy. We propose an alternative approach rooted in a dialectical epistemology, and a theory of social life that emphasizes the lived experience of people. What impresses us most about late Prehispanic western social organization is not that it was egalitarian or hierarchical, but that it was both. We discuss how this basic contradiction between communal life and hierarchy was a major internal motor driving change in these pueblos.
The idea of archaeology as craft challenges the separation of reasoning and execution that characterizes the field today. The Arts and Crafts Movement of the late nineteenth century established craftwork as an aesthetic of opposition. We establish craft in a Marxian critique of alienated labor, and we propose a unified practice of hand, heart, and mind for archaeology. The debates engendered by postprocessual archaeology have firmly situated archaeology in the present as a cultural and political practice. Many, however, still do not know how to work with these ideas. We argue that a resolution to this dilemma lies in thinking of archaeology as a craft. This resolution does not provide a method, or a cookbook, for the practice of archaeology, as indeed the core of our argument is that attempts at such standardization lie at the heart of the alienation of archaeology. Rather, we wish to consider archaeology as a mode of cultural productión, a unified method practiced by archaeologist, “client” public, and contemporary society.
This book, first published in 1992, seeks an explanation of the pattern of sharp discrepancy of wage levels across the world-economy for work of comparable productivity. It explores how far such differences can be explained by the different structures of households as 'income-pooling units', examining three key variables: location in the core or periphery of the world-economy; periods of expansion versus periods of contraction in the world-economy; and secular transformation over time. The authors argue that both the boundaries of households and their sources of income are molded by the changing patterns of the world-economy, but are also modes of defense against its pressures. Drawing empirical data from eight local regions in three different zones - the United States, Mexico and southern Africa - this book presents a systematic and original approach to the intimate link between the micro-structures of households and the structures of the capitalist world-economy at a global level.