American Archaeology Past and Future
Symbolic, Structural, and CriticalArchaeology
say because their spokespersons are increasingly vocal and widely read,and because their differences are not as clear within the field as theyshould be. The point of this essay is not to address the origins of theseapproaches, whether they are mainly American or British, nor to identifyschools of thought associated with universities or with particular schol-ars. The point is to identify the basic assumptions and to see how theyare expressed in the five illustrations discussed and quoted below.I, f I hich sees people as actors,This is the recursive qua
cu ture, w ,, d
contextsymbols as central to human existence, an rna en .,. . to order human
as analogous to language
Its capacity d "
truetura] an cnncaThe second crucial issue be
sym a IC,s 'h
f ' All proaches deny t e
archaeology is an emphasis on mearung. ap .
ht be assocIated Wit
e newmaterialism which has over the years come a
Julian. b ' d from Les
archaeology. As materialism was
enre Vavd d a' H . and A
a, anSteward, reinterpreted through Marvin ,arns f" f determin-, h
became a arm ahost of other, largely Amencan, sc oars, ,
B ' . h cial
ism that has been avoided by most pns so .'
h has been re-
Th atenaltsm w ICAmerican symbolic anthropo ogists. e m
II's that which. . ) d .tical arc aeo ogy
by symbohc (Hodder 198
t hnologl'cal and. . f f 'from eCO
seen as a hierarchy a actors
d to a vaguelyde-d' .' .
orgamzatlon, anemographlc considerations to SOCIafined ideological or religious organization.
h last twenty years'
, 'I .
archaeo ogy, t e
In a concrete historica sense
d rive studies of t edhrkably pro ucprogress has revolved aroun t e
foods and the
, d lant
aruma , d
natural environment, domesticate
ort reproduce, an
supp , k tools, shelters, and techniques use I While sometimesta -. d whole cu ture. hcontrol a population, socrety, an a li haeology rejectSt e rna-ing potshots at these achievements, symbo ICarfcd
life, deliberate at-, . . . he context
hrtenaltsm that Ignores meamng, r nd the whole world a ,oug~tempts to manipulate social relanons, a r981) of ermcal arOn the other hand, the sources (Habermahs r~~:;s do not renounce ate from teO, . wherechaeology which are here separa that in any SOCiety, h logy argues rh func-materialist tradition. Such arc aeo
'tatl'on to expeersmo
. . fl' t or exp
'maJor parthere are contrad,cnons, con IC, I did is
mISSatharchaeo ogy, hural sysremtioning or adaptation as e new h' rhe parr of a cu. fljer
of the culture. Ideology ISt e , . ns and thus prevents a Ideologythat hides or masks the contradlCBrlO
and Silverman 1979)'h rent or7r' arne . any co efrom occurring (Althusserr9 ' d' archaeology
b n define
has, until recently, never ee h oJogy?Is it
opera nona way. , d b these approacd here is cause,How is culture conceive y, What inreracts an w 8..a' TilleyI'k language. . (MIller r9' f levels, a system, or I e b I' archaeologistS f r a pictUre adh Ym a IC f rence
Barrett (n.d.) an t e s, f levels in pre e b moment baSIS.'d h notion
oment y . d 'Jyr982, 1984) avOl t e 'terealityonam. 'ons) sbapmg alpeople using symbols ro negotlaf symbolS (OppOSltld Scbele
F eldel anStructuralists see a co d beloWfrom rlife, but in the examples use
These three initiatives in archaeology can be understood by reference
four issues. The first one is the interactive or recursive quality of culture.Rather than supposing that culture, including the rules, behavior, andthings produced, is borne by people in a fairly passive and unaware fash-ion, the assumption is that people create, use, modify, and manipulatetheir symbolic capabilities, making and remaking the world they live in.This does not necessarily mean the capacity to dominate, control, or evento change culture in directive or politically forceful ways.
is, however,an effon to see that, like language, its use shapes our lives, and our liveswould be shapeless without it. The major impact in archaeology of thisviewpoint comes in regarding material culture as an instrument in cre-ating meaning and order in the world (Conkey 1982; Donley 1982; Kus1982; Moore 1982; Parker Pearson 1982), and not solely as the reflec-tion of economics, social organization, or ideology.The importance of this point is well developed by John Barren wboattempts
adapt Giddens (1979, 1981, r982a, 1982b) to archaeology.One attempt to break with functionalism involves shifting the focusof analysis from the consequences of human action to the intentionsand motivations of that action .... In the theory of structuratlOn,Giddens employs an analytical frame of the "time-space contin-uum" within which the actions of knowledgeable human subjectsreproduce the institutional conditions of their own existence. Gid-dens means ... discursive knowledge (which) encompass[es] thepractical knowledge of "how to go on" ... , it is knowledge whICh
drawn upon for, and reproduced in, human action. Here the sub-Jects draw upon their reflexive experience of an objective world,whIChappears constituted as a meaningful cultural resource, and actupon those same external conditions to reproduce and t!ansformthem, bequeathIng the results of that action as the condItIons forfuture action [Barrett n.d.: