New PDF release: Archaeological approaches to cultural identity

By S. J. Shennan

ISBN-10: 0203111141

ISBN-13: 9780203111147

ISBN-10: 0203163168

ISBN-13: 9780203163160

ISBN-10: 0415095573

ISBN-13: 9780415095570

Examines the serious implications of cultural id from various views. Questions the character and boundaries of archaeological wisdom of the earlier and the connection of fabric tradition to cultural identity.

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At the same time, the idea of habitus accounts for ethnic group formation and coordinated ethnic action without having to assume that ethnic identities represent either artifice or the product of some psychologically improbable process of unconscious interest aggregation. To understand ethnicity it is necessary to have a historical perspective, because only then can we see how it comes into existence, what resources it uses, what rôle it plays in the process of social reproduction, and why it might have been mobilized.

In doing so they have largely lost sight of the origins of the ‘culture’ concept in the romantic nationalism of the 19th century, and have taken their definition as a simple matter of inductive pattern recognition in the way discussed above. Indeed, as Veit (Ch. 1) points out (see also Shennan 1978) some of them have regarded the definition of such entities as one of the few legitimate goals which prehistoric archaeology can pursue, given the data at its disposal. Smith 1981, cf. Gellner 1983), a development which has occasioned some surprise (cf.

His approach is attractive for two reasons: it does not seek to deny the importance of context in formulating explanations, and it accords explanatory primacy to ‘the technological, economic and social setting’ rather than to differences in rationality, which are not nearly so accessible to the prehistoric archaeologist. It is perhaps worth making clear that to talk of a ‘universal rationality’, as Horton does, is not to postulate the operation of universal laws governing human history; it is to designate a species-wide capacity to relate to the phenomena with which ‘primary theory’ is concerned in a similar fashion, arising from a common evolutionary heritage.

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Archaeological approaches to cultural identity by S. J. Shennan


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