Anthropological Perspectives on Technology

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Overview

These fourteen original essays accept a dual premise: technology pervades and is embedded in all human activities. By taking that approach, studies of technology address two questions central in anthropological and archaeological research today-accounting for variability and change. These diverse yet interrelated chapters show that to understand human lives, researchers must deal with the material world that all peoples create and inhabit. Therefore an anthropology of technology is not a separate, discrete inquiry; instead, it is a way to connect how people make and use things to any activity studied, ranging from religion, to enculturation, to communication, to art.

Each contributor discusses theories and methods and also offers a substantial case study. These detailed inquiries span human societies from the Paleolithic to the computer age. By moving beyond the usual approach of examining ancient technologies, particularly chipped stone and low-fired ceramics, this volume probes for the construction of meaning in the material world across millennia. The authors of these essays find technology to be an inclusive and flexible topic that merges with studies of everything else in human activity.

"A provocative and powerful discussion of the role of technology in human cultures. At a time when archaeology has become less focused on theory, and archaeology and social anthropology seem to fracture farther and farther apart, the book is a breath of fresh air."—Professor John Douglas, University of Montana

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Brings together the work of anthropologists and archaeologists who study technology. Each contributor discusses theories and methods and also offers a substantial case study, spanning human societies from prehistory to the computer age. Some subjects discussed include ritual technology in an extranatural world, the design process as a critical component of the anthropology of technology, and artifact variability and change. Includes b&w photos and illustrations. Material originated at an October 1998 seminar sponsored by the Amerind Foundation. Schiffer teaches anthropology at the University of Arizona. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826323699
  • Publisher: University of New Mexico Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2001
  • Series: Amerind Foundation New World Studies Series
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 2556
  • Product dimensions: 8.70 (w) x 11.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Brian Schiffer is professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona.

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Table of Contents

List of Figures
List of Tables
Foreword
Preface
Ch. 1 Toward an Anthropology of Technology 1
Ch. 2 Beyond Art and Technology: The Anthropology of Skill 17
Ch. 3 Thought and Production: Insights of the Practitioner 33
Ch. 4 Meaning in the Making: Agency and the Social Embodiment of Technology and Art 47
Ch. 5 Symbols Do Not Create Meanings - Activities Do: Or, Why Symbolic Anthropology Needs the Anthropology of Technology 77
Ch. 6 Ritual Technology in an Extranatural World 87
Ch. 7 Toward an Archaeology of Needs 107
Ch. 8 The Design Process as a Critical Component of the Anthropology of Technology 123
Ch. 9 Understanding Artifact Variability and Change: a Behavioral Framework 139
Ch. 10 Artifice Constrained: What Determines Technological Choice? 151
Ch. 11 Building Bridges: Practice-based Ethnographies of Contemporary Technology 163
Ch. 12 Coordination of Technological Practice and Representations at the Boundaries 179
Ch. 13 From Sail to Steam at Sea in the Late Nineteenth Century 193
Ch. 14 The Explanation of Long-Term Technological Change 215
Contributors 237
Index 238
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