Agency Uncovered: Archaeological Perspectives on Social Agency, Power, and Being Human

Overview

This book questions the value of the concept of 'agency', a term used in sociological and philosophical literature to refer to individual free will in archaeology. On the one hand it has been argued that previous generations of archaeologists, in explaining social change in terms of structural or environmental conditions, have lost sight of the 'real people' and reduced them to passive cultural pawns, on the other, introducing the concept of agency to counteract this can be said to perpetuate a modern, Western ...

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Overview

This book questions the value of the concept of 'agency', a term used in sociological and philosophical literature to refer to individual free will in archaeology. On the one hand it has been argued that previous generations of archaeologists, in explaining social change in terms of structural or environmental conditions, have lost sight of the 'real people' and reduced them to passive cultural pawns, on the other, introducing the concept of agency to counteract this can be said to perpetuate a modern, Western view of the autonomous individual who is free from social constraints. This book discusses the balance between these two opposites, using a range of archaeological and historical case studies, including European and Asian prehistory, classical Greece and Rome, the Inka and other Andean cultures. While focusing on the relevance of 'agency' theory to archaeological interpretation and using it to create more diverse and open-ended accounts of ancient cultures, the authors also address the contemporary political and ethical implications of what is essentially a debate about the definition of human nature.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A useful indicator of the current status of agency theory in archaeology, because it shows some of the interpretive enlightenment that agency theory can provide." —Anthropological Forum
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Andrew Gardner is Lecturer in the Archaeology of the Roman Empire at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL. He has worked previously at the University of Reading, the University of Leicester, and Cardiff University. His publications include the edited volume Agency Uncovered: Archaeological Perspectives on Social Agency, Power and Being Human (Left Coast Press), and his research interests center upon the social dynamics of Roman imperialism, the role of material culture in the expression of cultural identity, and the ways in which people in different societies understand time.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     v
About the contributors     ix
List of figures     xi
Introduction: social agency, power, and being human   Andrew Gardner     1
Social Agency
An evolutionary perspective on agency in archaeology   Stephen Shennan     19
Agency and community in 4th century Britain: developing the structurationist project   Andrew Gardner     33
'Agency' theory applied: a study of later prehistoric lithic assemblages from northwest Pakistan   Justin Morris     51
Agency, technology, and the 'muddle in the middle': the case of the Middle Palaeolithic   Brad Gravina     65
Agency and Power
Dirt, cleanliness, and social structure in Ancient Greece   Astrid Lindenlauf     81
Examining the role of agency in hunter-gatherer cultural transmission   Peter Jordan     107
Identifying and defining agency in a political context   Fiona J.L. Handley   Tim Schadla-Hall     135
Being Human
Acts of god and active material culture: agency and commitment in the Andes   Bill Sillar     153
Being in a simulacrum: electronic agency   Mark W. Lake     191
Agency and views beyond meta-narratives that privatise ethics and globalise indifference   Stephanie Koerner     211
Commentary
Agency, structure and archaeological practice   Matthew Johnson     241
Index     249
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