AY2005 Glossary

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AY2005 Glossary
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2011-12-30 10:22:34
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archaeology
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Glossary of terms, taken from Johnson, 2010, Archaeological Theory: An Introduction (2nd Edition), Wiley-Blackwell
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  1. AGENCY
    The issue of how we think about intentional action and the resources needed to act, as in ‘structuralism lacks a theory of agency’ (in other words, structuralism can’t explain why individuals act in a diversity of ways rather than blindly executing a preconceived pattern). Often paired with STRUCTURE.
  2. ANNALES SCHOOL
    A French school of historical thought, part of which stresses the interrelationship of different timescales (the longue duree or long-term, the medium-term, and short-term events of l’histoire evenementielle). Annales historians also focus on the study of mentalities. See chapter 10.
  3. ANTIQUARIANISM
    In this book, mere collection of ancient artefacts without relating these to past processes. The antiquarianism of sixteenth- to eighteenth-century Europe and America was more sophisticated than this and demands more complex treatment, however.
  4. BEHAVIOURISM
    The proposition that we should focus exclusively on observable behaviours and refrain from referring to people’s thoughts in our explanations of that behaviour.
  5. COGNITIVE ARCHAEOLOGY
    ‘The study of past ways of thought as inferred from the surviving material remains’ (Renfrew 2005:41). Cognitive archaeology claims to be more modest than the postprocessual search for ‘meaning’. It focuses on two areas: the evolutionary development of cognition in early hominids, and the subsequent cultural development of cognitive capacities, for example the development of writing.
  6. CONTRADICTION
    A term with Marxist connotations: see DIALECTIC.
  7. CRITICAL THEORY
    See chapter 6. A school of thought derived in part from Marxism, associated with Adorno, Habermas and Marcuse, and often referred to as the ‘Frankfurt School’. Critical theorists aim to unmask the inner workings of a society which they suggest lie concealed from view by the mystifications of ideology.
  8. CULTURE
    An archaeological culture is a repeatedly recurring assemblage of traits – pottery and house forms, burial practices – seen over a discrete time and space. It may or may not relate to a human culture. In the broader sense, a culture can be many things, including:
  9. 1) a body of shared ideas and beliefs (the normative view)
  10. 2) an ‘extra-somatic’ (outside the body) system adapted to the external environment (systemic view)
  11. 3) a structure or code analogous to language
  12. 4) an attribute of civilised behaviour, as in ‘every cultured person should have some knowledge of archaeology’.
  13. CULTURE HISTORY
    A term usually used in North America to refer to a traditional approach to the mapping of cultures and cultural influence.
  14. CYBERNETICS
    The science of energy flow, often associated with systems theory.
  15. DECENTRING
    Humanists see individuals as autonomous, coherent and authors of their own meaning: the poststructuralist ‘decentring of the subject’ deconstructs all these ideas.
  16. DECONSTRUCTION
    A weapon from the armoury of poststructuralism. By showing that any word or sentence has many meanings and that those meanings themselves refer to a multiplicity of other meanings within language, any text, however apparently obvious or banal, can be ‘deconstructed’ or shown to have many meanings other than its apparent one. Deconstruction can be used in politically radical ways (to show for example how the word ‘masculine’ is both unstable and privileged) though it has also been held to lead to a disabling and politically neutral relativism.
  17. DIACHRONIC
    Through time (as opposed to SYNCHRONIC).
  18. DIALECTIC
    A complex term from Hegelian and Marxist thought. It refers to the contradiction or conflict of ideas or of groups within a wider framework. That framework collapses from within, resulting in the rise of new social or intellectual forms that in turn develop new contradictions. Thus, for example, Marx’s account of feudalism is dialectical since it suggests that there were contradictions within the feudal system that brought the whole system crashing down, to be replaced by nascent capitalism and its own contradictions. A dialectical view of social change or of intellectual development can be contrasted with an evolutionary or progressive view.
  19. DIFFUSION
    The spread of ideas between cultural groups.
  20. DIRECT HISTORICAL APPROACH
    A North American term, referring to the project of delineating culture groups in prehistory by working from ‘known’ groups in ethnography and ethnohistory back into the protohistoric and prehistoric past.
  21. DISCOURSE
    A set of rules of how to write and think that is specific to particular disciplines or institutions: thus ‘all the apparatus of empiricist discourse are mobilised in this article?...’ A buzzword among archaeologists influenced by Foucault.
  22. DIVERSITY
    Taken to refer to the acceptance and respect of differences between people, for example of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religion. Often paired with inclusion, with reference to changing the cultures of institutions.
  23. EMPIRICISM
    Popularly, the belief that the data will ‘speak for themselves’ without the need for intervening theories. Often used loosely as a term of abuse to indicate theoretical naiveté in general: ‘Oh well, you’ll call me an old empiricist I know, but I think we should just dig and not bother about theory’. In its more sophisticated form, as developed in seventeenth-century philosophy, empiricism rests on a conceptual division between ‘things’ or ‘the real world’ on the one hand, ‘words’ or ‘concepts’ on the other, and the prioritisation of the former. Also used loosely, interchangeably and confusingly with POSITIVISM.
  24. EPISTEMOLOGY
    How we know what we know, or the validity of knowledge claims. For example, the question ‘can we ever really know what people were thinking in the Formative Period?’ is an epistemological question.
  25. ESSENTIALISM
    The belief that there are certain attitudes or emotions that are ‘natural’ or biologically endowed, either to humans in general or to a specific sex; much debated by feminists and others. Thus the statement ‘in prehistory, men must have been more warlike as they lacked the mothering instinct’ is an essentialist statement. Essentialist claims are often supported with reference to biological arguments (for example, that men’s and women’s brains are structured differently); essentialist statements therefore often have a basis in socio-biology, evolutionary psychology or related schools of thought. Alternatively, they are derived from humanism.
  26. ETHNOCENTRISM
    Two meanings: the belief that one’s own values and attitudes have held true in all times and places; and/or the belief that one’s own culture is morally superior to others, not simply different.
  27. EVOLUTION
    ‘Descent with modification’ (Mace, Holden and Shennan 2005:2). A term historically derived from Darwin and Spencer. When used in archaeological writing, its meaning varies. It can involve some or all of:
  28. 1) the application of Darwinian principles to humans in the past
    2) the idea that human societies can be ranked on a scale of complexity, and that through time there has been a move from simple to complex. This can be linked with ideas of progress in human life.
  29. FALSIFICATIONISM
    The belief that while we can never ‘prove’ anything, science advances by coming up with hypotheses that it is possible to disprove or falsify.
  30. FEMINIST ARCHAEOLOGY
    The belief that gender roles are partially or completely socially constructed rather than endowed by biology, and that women in particular have suffered from oppression in Western society. This has the implication that: (a) archaeologists need to examine gender roles and inequalities within the profession; (b) archaeologists need to be more critical about biases and assumptions made about ancient societies; and (c) archaeologists need to question the way academic knowledge has been constructed in, it is argued, a ‘phallocentric’ or male-dominated manner. Not all archaeologists interested in ‘an archaeology of gender’ call themselves feminists, and not all feminists would necessarily fully agree with point (c) above.
  31. FORMALISM
    A school of economic theory that suggests we can extend Western ideas of economic rationality to non-Western societies.
  32. FUNCTIONALISM
    The belief that the different institutions and practices of a human group are interrelated in a manner analogous to that of a body, so that the form of one can be explained by its functional relationship to other elements.
  33. HERMENEUTICS
    The study of how we give meanings to cultural products, or how we interpret human actions and their products (for example, written text, social actions, works of art, or artefacts).
  34. HEURISTIC
    To find out, to learn or to throw up fresh ideas, as in ‘we didn’t gain any grand theory from this simulation, we just did it for heuristic purposes – it threw up some new ideas and possible interpretations that we need to test out in the next research stage.’
  35. HISTORICISM
    Various meanings. Often used as a code-word for Marxism; alternatively, New Historicist literary theory is ‘a critical movement insisting on the prime importance of historical context to the interpretation of texts of all kinds’ (Hamilton 1996:2).
  36. HISTORIOGRAPHY
    Various meanings, including historical theory and the history of historical thought.
  37. HUMANISM
    Broadly, the study of human culture; often associated with the belief that there is an essential ‘human condition’ regardless of historical circumstance.
  38. HYPOTHESIS
    A prediction about the relationship between variables, as in ‘My hypothesis is that marginal environments and risk are positively correlated.’
  39. IDEALISM
    Theoretical usage differs from commonplace usage. An idealist believes that thoughts are prior to actions, in other words that the mental world is more important than the material. In Collingwood’s historical idealism, the central method of historical and archaeological interpretation is to rethink the thoughts of past peoples empathetically.
  40. IDEOLOGY
    See chapter 6. A set of overt or implicit beliefs or views of the world. According to Marxists, ideology serves to legitimate or mask the ‘real’ state of social relations.
  41. INDIGENOUS
    Of a people inhabiting a region with which they have the earliest known historical connection, often with a history of dispossession by later immigrants; a term whose definition is much debated, and therefore often used with a capital I.
  42. INDUCTIVISM
    The belief that archaeological research starts with observations from the data, building general statements from them (in contrast with the HDN model, in which data collection is hypothesis-driven).
  43. LOGICISM
    A school of archaeological theory associated with the Ecole Pratiques des Hautes Etudes in Paris. Logicists focus attention on the structure of publications and interpretations rather than the archaeological remains themselves (see Gardin 1980).
  44. LOGOCENTRISM
    For poststructuralists, logocentrism is the illusion fostered by positivist science that there is a concrete world beyond ‘the text’, to which the text refers, and that meanings can therefore be fixed in some final ‘reality’. Poststructuralists argue that meanings are never fixed in this way and deny what they call ‘the logocentric fallacy’
  45. MATERIALISM
    Various meanings. Literally, a materialist believes that the material, physical world should be given more significance than the ideal or mental world. Some Marxists use the terms ‘Marxism’ and ‘materialism’ interchangeably. It is also used as a code-word by some North American archaeologists to indicate Marxism without its political connotations. For literary theorists, cultural materialism is the idea that culture and history are linked dialectically; it is sometimes seen as ‘the British version of New Historicism’, though it tends to be more openly committed to left-wing politics. Finally, materialism is used to describe an acquisitive mind-set that many archaeologists feel is bound up with the origins of capitalism, as in ‘the increased comfort of homes in the sixteenth century reflects a new spirit of materialism’.
  46. MATERIALSCHLACHT
    A term referring to detailed presentation of material, on the (empiricist) principle of letting the facts speak for themselves; increasingly used in German archaeology in pejorative reference to largely descriptive dissertation theses which catalogue copious archaeological material with very little interpretation.
  47. METHODOLOGICAL INDIVIDUALISM
    The belief that societies are nothing more than collections of individuals, and that therefore we can only explain ‘social’ phenomena through individual psychology.
  48. METHODOLOGY
    The techniques and methods used to collect and interpret archaeological data. Some feel methodology is part of theory; others insist that it be kept separate.
  49. MODERNISM
    Used loosely to refer to belief in Science, Truth and Progress
  50. MULTICULTURALISM
    The celebration of diverse ethnic backgrounds.
  51. MULTILINEAR
    Of a model that suggests more than one possible course, for example of social evolution.
  52. NOMOTHETIC (ALSO NOMOLOGICAL)
    Generalising, as in ‘The New Archaeology had nomothetic aims.’
  53. NORMATIVE
    The assumption that artefacts are expressions of cultural ideas or norms.
  54. ONTOLOGY
    The study of the being or essence of things, or of being in the abstract.
  55. PARADIGM
    A set of beliefs or assumptions that underpin the whole way of doing ‘normal science’. The term was invented by Kuhn, who suggested that science was characterised by long periods of stability punctuated by revolutionary ‘paradigm shifts’, for example between Newtonian and Einsteinian physics. There is much debate about whether Kuhn’s assessment is accurate, and if so whether the New Archaeology (or for that matter postprocessual archaeology) marked a true ‘paradigm shift’.
  56. PARTICULARISE
    To explain or understand something in terms of its peculiar qualities.
  57. PHENOMENOLOGY
    The study of human experience and consciousness in everyday life.
  58. POLYTHETIC
    With many features or criteria.
  59. POSTCOLONIAL THEORY
    Postcolonial theory deals with the effects of colonisation on cultures and societies, from a critical standpoint, and the issues these raise for academic and cultural enquiry.
  60. POSTMODERNISM
    According to Lyotard, ‘incredulity towards metanarratives’.
  61. PRACTICE
    A term closely linked to agency, associated with Bourdieu rather than Giddens, referring to everyday actions and their relationship to structure.
  62. PRAGMATISM
    A philosophy originally developed by Charles Peirce and others proposing that the meaning of an idea or proposition lies in its observable practical consequences.
  63. PROCESSUAL
    A school of archaeological thought that stresses the idea of process, tends to generalise and adopts a broadly positivist approach. Processualism can be seen as a developed, more mature form of the New Archaeology.
  64. REALISM
    A philosophical position which accords to known or perceived things an existence or nature which is independent of whether anyone is thinking about or perceiving them. In archaeology, realism tends to be adopted as a position between the extremes of positivism and social constructivism.
  65. REDUCTIONISM
    The belief that complex phenomena can be explained by reducing them to a set of often very simple variables: often linked to Darwinist, essentialist or sociobiological arguments. Often used as a term of abuse by its opponents. Thus, ‘To suggest that we can explain the presence of weapons in these graves simply by reference to Man’s aggressive instinct is both reductionist and essentialist’.
  66. REIFICATION
    Taking an idea or cluster of ideas and treating it as a definite thing. Thus, ‘the Neolithic’, ‘the Formative Period’ and ‘postprocessual archaeology’ are all reifications. Usually used pejoratively.
  67. RELATIVISM
    The belief that all possible accounts of the past are equally valid in their own terms, there being no neutral or objective way to judge between them. Also used in anthropology as the view that other cultures are simply different from our own, not ‘better’ or ‘worse’.
  68. SEMIOTICS
    The study of signs.
  69. SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIVISM
    Also known as social constructionism. The proposition that scientific knowledge is not a neutral body of data independent of cultural practices and values, but is actually created within society. In this view scientific data and practices are wholly social constructs (strong constructivism) or partly (weak constructivism). In practice, social constructivists are interested in laboratory practices and publication of information as processes to be studied sociologically rather than as purely ‘scientific’ debates in the narrow sense of the term.
  70. SOCIOBIOLOGY
    The idea that cultural practices are biologically rather than socially constructed, based on the drive to reproduce genes.
  71. STRUCTURALISM
    The belief that culture is governed by rules analogous to those of language.
  72. STRUCTURATION THEORY
    A term associated with Giddens to describe how social agents or individuals relate to social structures. Giddens suggests that actors are constrained by their social environments, but pursue active strategies; the clash of agency then produces, often as an unintended consequence, change in social structures.
  73. STRUCTURE
    Enduring culture or social relations. Sometimes used interchangeably with ‘system’ by functionalists, though for Marxists and structuralists the structure underlies the social system.
  74. SUBSTANTIVISM
    A school of economic theory that holds that our ideas of economic ‘rationality’ are not applicable to other cultures.
  75. SYNCHRONIC
    At one particular moment in time (as opposed to DIACHRONIC).
  76. SYSTEMS
    Can be used in a variety of senses from the very general (‘the social system that was the Roman Empire came under stress in the third century AD’) to very particular. In its particular forms, systems theory is close to functionalist beliefs that cultures can be seen as bodies – themselves systems – composed of various subsystems. Change in one subsystem will thus react against other subsystems and either be ‘dampened down’ (negative feedback leading to homeostasis) or produce wider change (positive feedback leading to transformation such as systems collapse).
  77. TELEOLOGY
    A narrative with a definite development towards a point; for example, a traditional Marxist account of history is teleological in that it suggests an inexorable progress towards communism.
  78. THEORIFEINDLICHKEIT
    Used pejoratively in German archaeology to denote distance from or hostility to theory.
  79. THEORY
    General definition at the start of Chapter 12. It has also been used specifically to refer to a particular kind of structural-Marxism formulated by Althusser and others; thus, E.P. Thompson’s essay ‘The poverty of theory’ was actually an attack on Althuesserian Marxism rather than on theory as such.
  80. TOTALISING
    A scheme of thought is totalising if it attempts to place a set of diverse experiences within one large scheme applicable to all times and places. For example, social evolutionary models can be argued to be totalising in so far as they place all human societies within one stage or another of a grand evolutionary scheme. Usually used pejoratively by opponents of such thinking.
  81. UNILINEAR
    Following one course, as in cultural evolution.
  82. ZEITGEIST
    A very complex term from German Romantic philosophy. It refers to an essential or defining spirit, whether of an historical period, a ‘people’, or other cultural group or formation.

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