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"Mason addresses the contentious debate between science and oral traditions with his focus on the tension between archaeological and traditional explanations, specifically focusing on Native American history. An emeritus professor of archaeology, Mason (Lawrence Univ.) acknowledges his own scientific bias while admitting the viability of oral tradition within its own logical premises. Thoroughly examining the discourse on oral tradition, narrative, and historical or archaeological explanation, he is consistently dismayed at the muzzled scientific access to Native American archaeological sites, citing NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) and a strong Indian rights movement. Mason writes clearly, with an ostensible effort at balancing his observations and judgments, but he nonetheless dismisses one of narrative theory's central explanatory modes: understanding narrative in terms of cultural tropes and history. The author is an ardently scientific archaeologist, so he comprehends the world based on Western scientific objectivity, with its bias of verifiability, objective truth, and ultimate explanations. To create a balanced study, Mason needs to transcend this mode to incorporate a fuller understanding and analysis of other ways of knowing. Although he sees himself as a champion of perspectival negotiation, Mason's conclusion is predetermined: scientific explanations trump all. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students, faculty, professionals."
“Mason’s work is a vigorously argued essay on the incapability of oral traditions to compete with contemporaneous written texts for evidential standing as objective history. This is a strongly worded but deferential treatment of the current tendency to abrogate scholarship for political expedience.”—James A. Brown, Northwestern University