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Images of power and contradiction:

feminist theory and post-processual


archaeology

ERICKA ENGELSTAD*

Archaeology, like many of the sciences, works to a masculine metaphor, the [male)
archaeologist as hero explores and tames the mysteries of his [female) subject. Feminisl
theory has made important criticism of positivist science on these grounds, drawing on
much the same postmodern theory as post-processual archaeology. How do the
post-processuals appear, seen in the feminist light?

The character of post-processual archaeology metatheory. Much post-processual work takes


Recent critiques of the new or processual the form of polemical criticisms of what went
archaeology have been grouped in a new ortho- before, a discourse which has created strong,
doxy, post-processual archaeology. Although polarizations in theoretical and methodologi-
its few practitioners show some diversity and cally oriented archaeology.
even internal criticism (as Shanks & Tilleys Some common themes can be viewed as
criticism of Hodder) there are obvious points of positive proposals rather than simply decon-
consensus. Post-processual archaeology is structions. One finds a renewed emphasis on
united in its criticism of positivist, functional- culture, and an interest in material culture as
ist, adaptational models of the past which not only reflecting but also as active in consti-
emphasize a scientific, objective, hypothesis- tuting social relations, and thus an emphasis on
testing approach and would appear to limit the social, symbolic, ideological as well as the
archaeology to the analysis of technology, functional. This structuralist and
economy and the effects of physical and bio- poststructuralist stance relates to developments
logical processes - middle-range theory. The in symbolic and critical anthropology (Scholte
post-processual critics have variously proposed 1988) where the social, ideological, and symbo-
Marxism, symbolic anthropology, hermeneu- lic are not seen as epiphenomena of supposedly
tics, structuralism and poststructuralism - or more basic, functional, cause-and-effect rela-
mixtures of these - as alternatives. tions. One joins the functional with the social,
United in criticizing the old New Archae- ideological, and symbolic analyses of the mun-
ology, post-processualists present divergent dane aspects of everyday life (Engelstad in
views on what the new orthodoxy is or even if it press). The material cultural remains relating to
is a new orthodoxy. A replacement archaeology all aspects of mundane, everyday life become
can be seen in the proposed contextual important for understanding both material and
archaeology (Hodder 1986). Shanks & Tilley non-material aspects of this life.
(1987a; 1987b) propose a plurality of archae- Relatively new to archaeology is an emphasis
ologies. Such divergence may be inherent in on the individual as active rather than the
their philosophical position, related primarily passive pawn of previous adaptation-oriented
to poststructuralist/postmodern thought and a archaeologies. The relationship between
seeming reluctance openly to propose a new agency and structure, and the importance of

*
Department of Archaeology, Institute of Social Science, University of Tromse, 9000 Tromse, Norway.

ANTIQUITY
65 (1991): 502-14
IMAGES OF POWER AND CONTRADICTION 503

agency in processes of structuration, has been of the reactions to the postmodernist turn in
emphasized by Giddens (1979; 1984) and Bour- feminist and in post-processual theorizing can
dieu (1977), although in a different form. Inter- inform a better understanding of the post-
estingly, this emphasis on the individual seems processual perspective.
diametrically opposed to some poststructuralist For the uninitiated, post-processual jargon
thought which seeks to de-centre the subject a can seem obscure. Since I am interested in
contradiction that shows the eclecticism of communicating with a wide archaeological
post-processualist thought, picking up bits of audience, I have tried to avoid jargon. However,
ideas on many fronts. But this is nothing new for any perspective has its own set of metaphors
archaeology. Eclecticism is characteristic of which must be used in both discussion and
both doing and thinking archaeology, with criticism.
new archaeologists looking to diverse natural I begin with a brief review of the feminist
sciences and post-processualists to diverse critique of science.
philosophical frameworks. In addition, it is
often stressed that post-processual archaeology Feminist critiques of science
should be done from a reflexive stance where The original impetus to feminist involvement in
the subjectivity of the researcher is or shoud be critiques of science was remedial research
ever-present . with the goal of making the r61e of females more
a part of current scientific models (Bleier 1984;
Feminist critiques of science and post- 1986; 1987; Fausto-Sterling 1985; Keller 1984;
processual archaeology Harding 1986; Wylie 1991). An additional goal
The post-processualist critique/deconstruc- was to expose the male bias in research
tion of positivist new archaeology parallels methodology and theory. Much of this work
recent feminist critiques of science (see Imber & relates to the second wave of feminism, with
Tuana 1988 and Wylie et al. 1989 for bibliogra- some articles appearing as early as the 1960s. In
phies over much of this work), particularly with this period of critique, feminists (including
the problem of objectivity. The feminist scientists, social scientists and philosophers of
critiques, revealing the masculine bias in west- science) have uncovered the enormous extent of
ern scientific objective method and theory, bias in both the humanities and sciences, even
have called into question the very concept of in the pure sciences, of physics and mathe-
objectivity. For feminist critiques of science (as matics. Two of those disciplines most affected,
for post-processual archaeology), the personal, and perhaps changed, by feminist-oriented
political and analytical are united in recog- research have been primatology and anthro-
nizing the subjectivity of doing science, of being pology (Fedigan 1982; Haraway 1986; 1989;
scientific, and of being a member of a scientific Lamphere 1987). Most relevant for archaeology
community. In addition, the importance of is the effect this work had on the study of
reflexivity in theory and practice is not only hominid evolution and early hunting and gath-
recognized but also is emphasized as essential ering societies.
to good science. Years of feminist deconstructions of science
In this paper I look at certain aspects of led to the very questioning of the possibility of
feminist theory, and particularly the feminist science in feminism (Harding 1986).Science, as
critique of science, as these can develop further objective research, becomes an impossible
the possibilities of post-processual archae- undertaking. Feminist critiques of biological
ology. Since major works in post-processual and social sciences have shown androcentric
archaeology continue the androcentric bias of distortions since the time of Francis Bacon,
the paradigm they criticize, this paper takes the often viewed as the father of modern science
form of a feminist critique of those particular (note that Bacon has recently been again put
aspects of post-processual archaeology. In parti- forward as an example of good science by the
cular, I look at postmodernism and the reactions fatherof the New Archaeology (Binford 1988)).
of some feminist theorists to postmodern theor- If science has a masculinist bias, if it is
izing, which some view as essential to theor- value-laden in its methodology, in interpreta-
izing feminism while others view it as tions of analytical results, in theory and in
undesirable, indeed dangerous. A comparison which problems are posed and considered
504 ERICKA ENGELSTAD

significant, can it then be possible to do good culture. Can one define the basis of Thefemin-
science? (Harding 1986: 22). According to ist standpoint - essentially, the problem of
Sandra Harding this leads us to ask Whether it defining a universal Woman- given the multi-
is possible that some kinds of value-laden farious nature of womens experiences. The
research are nevertheless maximally objective very essentialist nature of aithe feminist stand-
(Harding 1986: 23). Is research which purports point has caused some feminists to reject this
to be anti-racist, anti-sexist and anti-class more epistemology.
objective than previous androcentrid For some feminist theorists the problems
masculinist science? Related to this is the more with these two epistemological solutions,
general problems, Whether, to what extent, and feminist empiricism and feminist standpoint,
why feminist theory can be better than the lead them to turn to, postmodern (or poststruc-
gender-biased theories it critiques (Flax 1987: turalist) philosophies (Harding 1986: 26-8;
621). According to Harding (1986), who views Alcoff 1988; Flax 1987) in a feminist
science as a fully social activity, feminist theor- postmodernism. According to Flax (1987: 633 1:
ists have (so far) discussed three solutions to
this problem/paradox which she terms feminist We cannot simultaneously claim (1) that the mind.
empiricism, the feminist standpoint, and the self, and knowledge are socially constituted and
feminist postmodernism. that what we can know depends upon our social
practices and contexts and (2) that feminist theory
Feminist empiricism (Harding 1986: 24-6,
can uncover the Truth of the whole once and for all
111-35), continuing the tradition of western
scientific inquiry sees these problems as not
This is essentially a turning away from the
inherent in scientific methodology itself; it is
successor science projects of both feminist
simply that scientists have practised science in
empiricist and feminist standpoint epistemolo-
an inadequate way. It is still possible to do good
gies, Flax (1987: 622) unites postmodern phil-
science. This solution has obvious empirical
osophy, feminist theory and psychoanalysis a:;
flaws. It is difficult to claim that the social
ways of thinking which take as
identity of the researcher affects methodology,
that feminist scientists as a group can produce
its object of investigation at least one facet of what has
better, more objective science, and at the same become most problematic in our transitional state:
time adhere to the claims of the scientific how to understand and (re-)constitute the self,
method which supposedly eliminates bias. In gender, knowledge, social relations, and culture
addition, feminist empiricism, concentrating without resorting to linear, teleological, hierarchical,
on the methodology of science, says little about holistic, or binary ways of thinking and being.
the theories of science, yet the determination of
which problems are considered relevant for Feminist postmodernism then recognizes
research is a subjective evaluation affected by that knowledge is historically contingent, that
the fact that both the researcher and science are there is no single ultimate truth. The problems
socially constituted. of relativism which encompass this view haves
The feminist standpoint approach (Harding led some feminists to maintain an ambiguous
1986: 26, 136-62) to science argues that the position which sees the importance of all three
feminist perspective (considered by some to be epistemologies: empiricism, standpoint anld
a universal) or standpoint is a morally and postmodern (Harding 1986).
scientifically preferable grounding for our inter- Another feminist postmodern theorist, !3.
pretations and explanations of nature and social Haraway, would argue for a doctrine and prac-
life (Harding 1986: 26). This solution obviously tice of objectivity that privileges contestation,
goes against the grain of scientific research deconstruction, passionate construction,
which associates objectivity and good science webbed connections, and hope for trans-
with an unbiased approach. One rejects rela- formation of systems of knowledge and ways of
tivism for adherence to a standpoint, a theory of seeing (Haraway 1988: 585). Further refining
knowledge based on womens experience. this position she advocates, positioned
Many feminists are sceptical to this solution for knowledges: politics and epistemologies of
they recognize a variation in womens experi- location, positioning, and situating, where par-
ences related to ethnicity, class, history and tiality and not universality is the condition of
IMAGES OF POWER AND CONTRADICTION 505

being heard to make rational knowledge claims ties for analysis and theorizing (Weedon 1987;
(Haraway 1988: 589). This partial, positioned Flax 1987).
knowledge is local not universal knowledge, Others (e.g. Tress 1988) view poststructural-
shows objectivity as positioned rationality, ist thought - in its emphasis on the deconstruc-
and cannot escape accountability and responsi- tion of previous epistemologies, plurality and
bility. Interestingly, Haraway (1988: 591-6) undecidability, and decentering the self, which
sees the object to be studied by positioned is seen as socially and historically contingent -
knowledges not as a passive object but as an as having extremely negative tendancies. These
active agent, a material-semiotic actor. are especially detrimental for a politically con-
Perhaps the attraction of poststructuralism or scious feminism, and must be counteracted by
postmodernism is exactly the process of decon- feminist theory and perhaps psychoanalytical
struction and the implied scepticism to all theory (Weedon 1987). In discussing Derrida,
previous and overwhelmingly male discourses. deconstruction and the textuality of reasoning
But the problem for feminism, or any politically and knowledge, Nye writes (1987: 672):
related standpoint, is the question: what is left
after deconstruction? How does the recognition Language, as a more or less ordered system of textual
of a plurality of meanings, the historical and differences and deferrals cannot, according to
social contingency of all meanings, fit with a Derrida, be used to express any reality, feminist or
other.. . . The Derridean scholar would eschew the
feminist perspective? illusion of a feminine presence and instead devote
Since just these questions are relevant to herself to the sabotage of presence, which, according
archaeological theorizing, let us consider rela- to Derrida, is the characteristic mark of patriarchy. As
tivism and objectivism in a feminist scholar, she becomes the irritating, clever, elegant,
postmodern context, Feminist critiques ques- sometimes perverse disrupter of academic argument.
tion the objectivity of scientific method and Such a procedure, though perhaps valuable for the
theory. The alternative perspective(s) in task of exposing and ridiculing the deceptions of
postmodern theory that seem to follow, and that patriarchal discourse, can soon seem like so much
some have turned to, imply an extreme rela- tiresome playing with words, especially when in its
tivism. Given the acceptance of the contingent most virtuosic and intricate exercise, it becomes
accessible to only a small elite audience, divorced in
nature of theories, how does one judge between understanding and interest from the masses of
different theories. Bernstein (1983), for women, whether Third World, industrial poor, or
example, sees judgement (in practice) as a middle class.
complex process of an on-going series of assess-
ments and evaluations which leads to a Aside from the inherent 6lite intellectualism of
cumulative weight of evidence, data, reasons, this academic playfulness, the practice of
and arguments that can be rationally decisive deciding between a plurality of meanings then
(Bernstein 1983: 74; Wylie in press). No one seems to become a matter of power. It can,
aspect (either evidence, data, reasons, argu- indeed, be viewed as an ideology of the power-
ments) is in itself sufficient (universaUessentia1) ful (Wylie in press):
to prove the validity of an argument; yet this
does not, according to Bernstein, necessarily Only the most powerful, the most successful in
lead to an inability to judge between conflicting achieving control over the world, could imagine that
theories and thus to extreme relativism. the world can be constructed as they choose, either as
Obviously, the problem of what is rationally participants or as observers.
decisive is not to be taken lightly since the
feminist critique has shown the contingency, Not only feminists, but also other minority
and male bias, in concepts of rationality (Flax groups, know it is impossible simply to con-
1988).For some, relativism has an appeal which struct any reality (text), either now or in the
cannot be satisfied by truthswhich their own past (Wylie in press):
experiences contradict (Seller 1988). For There may be more than one way of comprehending
postmodern feminist theorists, it is exactly the these realities, but it is still possible to be (disastrous-
undecidability of theories, and the recognition ly] mistaken in what one believes about them: not
of their ever-changing historical and social anything goes, indeed, it is our daily experience that
contingency which offers unlimited opportuni- not many things go.
506 ERICKA ENGELSTAD

A solution to this (postmodern) problem has 1 viewing archaeology and prehistory or pre-
been put forward by Rorty, who has no problem historic cultures as a text, with the indi-
with relativism, extreme or otherwise (Rorty vidual, culture, and society viewed as
1989: 68): historically, socially, and symbolically con-
stituted; and
Abandoning universalism is my way of doing justice 2 a concern with a broadly defined concept of
to the claims of the ironists whom Habermas power as being of critical importance in
distrusts: Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida. Habermas social relations.
looks at these men from the point of view of public The textual metaphor, which seems to accept a
needs. I agree with Habermas that as public philoso- multitude of interpretable texts and thus rela-
phers they are at best useless and at worst dangerous, tivism, is regarded negatively by many archae-
but I want to insist on the role they and others like ologists (for example Binford 2989; Trigger
them can play in accommodating the ironists private
sense of identity to her liberal hopes. All that is in
1989) critical of post-processual archaeology. 1
question however, is accommodation not synthesis. now consider the textual metaphor in post-
My poeticizedculture is one which has given up the processual archaeology in light of recent
attempt to unite ones private ways of dealing with discussions in feminist theory (related to both
ones finitude and ones sense of obligation to other literature and science) on postmodernism and
human beings. the problem of relativism and power,
dominance.
For Rorty, the world can be dichotomized
into a public sphere, where political relevance The postmodern turn in archaeology:
dominates, and a private sphere, where the prehistory as text and the power of
individual ironist recognizes the contingency interpretation
of all thought and language games. Whether Prehistory and material culture remains can be
one can find this accommodation and not syn- regarded metaphorically as a text, in a trans-
thesis satisfying or even possible is an open ferral to archaeology of aspects of the work of
question. Feminist studies, particularly in Ricoeur, Derrida, Barthes and others. Archae-
anthropology and history, after a phase of ologists using the textual metaphor often see the
viewing the public and private spheres as two text as having its own autonomy, set free from
separate entities, have now turned away from the author, and open to a plurality of interpreta-
such dichotomizing and emphasize the inter- tions on the part of the reader. One unifying
relationships, and indeed the sameness, of the thesis, if there is one, is that there are no
public and private. universals, no unifying ontology, and much of
One can see postmodern thought in post- their work deconstructs previous texts.
processual archaeology (Shanks & Tilley 1987a; The textual metaphor was taken up by some
1987b: Hodder 1989a; 1989c), which gains anthropologists in the 1970s and 1980s, who
inspiration from a diverse group of theorisk, came to regard culture as a text and thc
among them poststructuralist/postmodernist anthropologist as interpreter or translator
theorists, primarily French, such as Lacan, (Ortner 1984). Clifford Geertz, a major pro-
Derrida, Barthes and Foucault; although influ- ponent of the metaphor is followed by a younger
ences also come from other sources, in parti- generation in this school, in particular the
cular, Ricoeur, Bourdieu and Giddens. These experimental anthropologists (Clifford &
theorists, poststructural and otherwise, are very Marcus 1986; Marcus & Cushman 1982; Stra-
much the same as those who have inspired thern 1987a) in a postmodern, reflexive
Anglo-American and French feminist anthropology centred on the problem of how,
postmodernism. Notably, the post-processua- and if, the ethnographer can represent another
lists have neglected the more postmodern theor- culture (Caplan 1988). Recently the old idea/
ists of French feminism (perhaps not metaphor of culture as text has not gone without
considered malestream enough) such as Iriga- its critics (cf. Keesing 1987) dissatisfied with a
ray, Cixcious and Kristeva (Flax 1987; Moi reification of cultureas text, with referentiality
1985; 1986; 1987). There are two aspects of this and representation and the feeling that onemay
French- (Continental-) inspired archaeological read too much into things (Strathern 1987b:
theory which I wish to consider here: 174). In addition, as Strathern (1987a) and
IMAGES OF POWER AND CONTRADICTION 507

Caplan (1988) stress, feminist anthropology in Ultimately we may say that history is another term for
many ways was already doing reflexive, undecidability. What this means is that we must
postmodernanthropology. But it was not until regard social change as being an open, polysemous
male anthropologists started doing it that it text, a text to be written and interpreted, not some-
became an important genre (see, for example, thing that decides in any degree of finality what we
write. Archaeology as a historical science is fun-
Caplans (1988) critique of Clifford & Marcus
damentally tipen-ended
(1986)).
In Anglo-American archaeology the textual
Thus history and prehistory are both open-
metaphor is seen primarily in the work of
ended and multitudinous. As well as variation
Hodder, Tilley and Shanks (Hodder 1986; 1987;
in past cultures, material cultural remains are
1989a,b, c; Shanks & Tilley 1987a; 198713;1989;
open to a multitude of interpretations which
Tilley 1989a). Shanks & Tilley (1987b: 97)
can be both complementary and contradictory.
consider the nature of material culture as
Hodder (1989a: 68) also concedes the undecida-
communication, as a form of writing and silent
bility of the material cultural text:
discourse. More explicitly, Tilley (1989a: 189)
states:
But written texts and especially material objects often
become divorced from their authors. As the texts are
material culture is a framing and communicative moved around within society or are read by different
medium involved in social practice. It can be used for people they can be given meanings in relation to
transforming, storing or preserving social informa- novel and unexpected similarities and differences.
tion. It also forms a symbolic medium for social The meaning of an object does not lie within that
practice, acting dialectically in relation to that prac- object but in its reading, that is in the link that is made
tice. It can be regarded as a kind of text, a silent form of between that object and other objects, words and
writing and discourse; quite literally, a channel of concepts. As a result the meaning of a n object is never
reified and objectified expression static and its reading is never finished. It is always
open to new interpretation.
and (Tilley 1989a: 193):
Archaeological texts present a problem of text-
the meaning of the past has to be inserted into the ual criticism and translation, between two
present through the medium of the text. So there is no different cultures, and between the past and the
meaning outside the text. . . . present. Thus, the problem of interpretation is
supposedly greater than with the ethnographic
The work of an archaeologist becomes either text - text almost doubly ambiguous and ambi-
rewriting a previous (prehistoriciarchaeologi- valent. In fact, Shanks & Tilley (1987a: 107-8)
cal) text (Hodder 1989a: 74), or a reading, refer to a fourfold hermeneutic in regard to
interpreting or translating a text. Archaeology archaeology, including not only the hermeneu-
becomes a form of literary criticism - a western tic of working within the academic community
European intellectual (male?)concern - where of the discipline and living in contemporary
the literary critique and the literary critic define society, but also that of understanding
the importance of the text. Viewing archaeology anthropologys Other - a foreign culture -
as a text, part of the deconstructive process, through the relationship of past and present.
allows techniques of literary criticism and
interpretation to reveal underlying meanings. Interpretation and relativism
This appears particularly in the work of Shanks The opening up of the text to endless interpreta-
& Tilley, whose polemical deconstructions are tions, both new readings and new writings,
closely tied to literary analysis (Shanks & Tilley appears to lead not only to the recognition that
1987a; 1987b; Tilley 1989a): Archaeology, we all truths are partial but also to relativism, a
contend, is an interpretative practice (Shanks & direction diametrically opposed to the new
Tilley 1987a: 103). The critic seems to become archaeologys law and order discourse
more important than the text, and the archae- (Binford 1987; 1988; 1989). The plurality, un-
ologist the hero of the interpretive quest. The decidability and ambiguity of the archaeologi-
text is open to a multitude of interpretations cal text both in its writing and reading are
(Shanks & Tilley 1987b; see also Tilley 1989a): continually stressed in particular by Hodder,
508 ERICKA ENGELSTAD

Tilley and Shanks. As with postmodernism in & Tilley (1987b: 186-208) stress. The past gains
feminist theory, the post-processualist archaeo- meaning (only) through action, with, again, the
logists quandary is then: areican these texts be archaeologist as hero - something they pre-
equally valid, and, if so, what then? Is what the viously criticized: although, in Shanks & Till-
post-processual archaeologist or any archaeo- eys version, the archaeologist-hero appears a
logist writes just another story and, if so, why rebel without a cause, or perhaps with many
should anyone take it seriously? causes. They advocate the writing of many
Because Shanks & Tilley want to be taken conflicting, politicized archaeologies, all appar-
seriously, they are at pains to reiterate the claim ently with equal rights to present cases and
that advocating open-ended interpretations and equal rights to be believed. But if there is no wav
undecidability does not lead them to extreme of distinguishing between true and false inter-
relativism. While they state that not all pasts are pretations, if our interpretations are just-so
equal, they imply that all pasts are equally stories, then only power will be the factor that
speculative (Wylie 1988). Despite their decides which story is heardlreadtwritten (Fou-
polemics being obviously non-relativistic, their cault 1980; Flax 1987: 625; Tress 1988). This
arguments profess a relativist position, but a does seem to be Tilleys position (1989a: 193):
position which is at the same time presented as
being better than previous positions. In this As yet there is no true alternative discourse i n
sense they do not exemplify a case for extreme archaeology. A crucial act in creating one will be the
relativism. One could argue that saying that all disruption of the discursive authority of the texts we
is relative is actually an absolute statement. have to hand at present. This will involve a n aware-
One limit to the possibility of limitless inter- ness of the politics of discourse and the power
pretations is grounded in the archaeological structures in which it is embedded. . . . The meaning
record as empirical reality, translation of [ofthe past] has to be argued for and against. The act of
archaeological texts is neverthcless considered writing always presupposes a politics of the present
and such writing is a form of power. It cannot escape
to be bound by empirical constraints, a point
power.
made in much of Hodders ethnoarchaeological
work (Hodder 1982). As data can test and thus
change hypotheses, according to the Power is, in fact, essential to Shanks & Tilleys
processualists, so can verbal data in ethnoar- (1987a; 1987b) view of human society - both
chaeological studies change and challenge past and present. Their concept of power isl
archaeology. Shanks & Tilley appear to accept derived directly from the writings of Foucaull
the constraints inherent in the materiality of the (1980; Kabinow 1986) and especially his expli-
archaeological record: cation of poweriknowledge. For Foucaull
power is relational, located socially and histor L-
The archaeological record itself may challenge what cally; and power and knowledge in contem-
we say as being inadequate in one manner or another. porary societies are inseparable. But Foucault,
We are involved i n a discourse mediating past and and Shanks & Tilley after him, present a view of
present and this is a two-way affair. poweriknowledge that ignores gender and its
relation to power (Diamond & Quinby 1988b):a
At first glance, this argument seems to reveal a power which, as feminists have long pointed
contradiction in their own thinking. If the past out, is masculine; a domination which is not
only exists in the act of interpretation in the only far-ranging but also deep within the struc.
present, how can the past be a corrective to ture of western society. Foucault has failed to
these interpretations? But perhaps this is just take into account the relations between mascu-
the process of tacking (Wylie 1988b, after linist authority and language, discourse, and
Geertz) back and forth between past and present reason [Diamond & Quinby 1988a: xv). Neither
which seems a part of most archaeological language, discourse nor reason are gender-free.
analyses. Unfortunately post-processual archaeologists
pains to criticize objective, scientific archae-
Interpretation and power ology, has neither extended to nor enlightened
A further solution is to see interpretations of the their masculinist authoritative language,
pastlmaterial culture political action, as Shanks glaringly exemplified in the writing of Shanks &
IMAGES OF POWER AND CONTRADICTION 509

Tilley (1987a; 1987b),despite their (politically r6le of gender in various historically, socially
conscious) use of heishe. and ideologically constituted relations - a lack
If the meaning of the past is decided solely by of attention to gender as a structuring principle.
the use of power in the present, the implications In fact, Shanks & Tilley have approximately one
for the practice of archaeology are potentially paragraph on a feminist archaeology in each of
rather frightening. Indeed, there are many their books. In Archaeology and social theory,
examples of the powerful creating what was for under the section The emergence of a critically
them a meaningful history, not the least of self-conscious archaeology, Shanks & Tilley
which is the Wests creation of the Oriental (1987b: 191) have their single paragraph (actu-
World (Said 1978). One can only be reminded ally one sentence) on the woman question in
of feminist theorists worries about the ideol- archaeology:
ogy of the powerful (Wylie in press). Shanks &
Tilleys statements on the inescapability of Finally, an important but surprisingly undeveloped
power do, indeed, seem to be written from some focus in the emergence of a critically self-conscious
sense of being in a power position, for only then archaeology is feminist archaeology, work that has
could one believe that power should decide raised the consciousness of the absence of women in
between alternatives. Those who have had to archaeology, both conceptually in archaeological
fight for equality from non-power positions will discourses and substantively in terms of a male-
find no solace in this advocacy of continued dominated profession (Conkey & Spector, 1984;Gero,
1985).
power politics, which is certainly opposed to
the non-hierarchical nature of a feminist per-
spective. This ideology of the powerful would One can only marvel at the naivety (or is one
seem to contradict the free play of interpreta- naive to think it is only that?) Shanks & Tilley
tions and socio-political awareness otherwise find a feminist archaeology surprisingly
advocated by the post-processualists. Shanks & undeveloped, given at least 2 0 years of political
Tilley, in particular, seem unable to come to agitation on the part of the womans movement
grips with, or are perhaps unaware of, the and given the acknowledged power relations in
contradiction between the free play of their the discipline. This is strange coming from two
language games and the asymmetrical relations who stress the centrality of power in social life
of power in their power politics. (Shanks & Tilley 1987b: 70). Or is this mono-
lithic power only a male domain? Also intersst-
Power and gender ing is the remark on consciousness-raising
It is not enough to say that power is, and can be, about the conceptual and substantive absence
divorced from dominance. After Foucault, of women, since the rest of the books text seems
Shanks & Tilley believe that there is both power to indicate something else; one can ask, whose
over and power to. Foucault ignored asym- consciousness was raised?
metrical gender relations in his discussions of It is more illuminating to look at the chapter,
power; when Shanks & Tilley (1987b: 201-8) The individual and the social (Shanks & Tilley
discuss power in archaeology, class not gender 198713: 61-78), again on agency and structure,
is their concern. Yet archaeology in a number of with the main emphasis on the individual
countries clearly shows gender-related asym- constitution of the subjectivity of the individual
metrical power relations in both theory and agent, and with power playing an important
practice (Gero 1985; Mandt & Naess 1986). r61e in this. In a listing of specific forms of
Eguall-y important, although Foucaults practices which produce subjects in contem-
analyses of power may prove insightful, there porary western society (Shanks & Tilley 1987b:
are obvious problems, in applying his theories 70-71) we find the creation of subjects in many
to prehistoric, pre-modern societies, not the terms (ethnic or social or religious divisions,
least of which is the genderlessness of his those who possess knowledge and those who
analysis. do not), but never gender. Yet gender is one of
In fact, what marks many post-processualist the major forms constituting subjectivity in
texts, in particular Shanks & Tilley, is lack of an contemporary western society. But then Shanks
understanding of gender as historically, & Tilley (1987b: 63-7) see the constitution of the
socially and symbolically constituted, and the self or subjectivity in terms of Lacanian
510 ERICKA ENGELSTAD

psychoanalytic theory (Bowie 1979; Lacan surprising that feminist archaeology is


1985;Miller 1988). They describe Lacans work undeveloped?
as in deceptively gender-neutral terms. For In Reconstructing archaeology Shanks &
Lacan it is the individual childs acquisition of Tilley (1987a: 246) state:
language which makes human society possible.
Although the self is constituted, language is A feminist archaeology, to mention one area, is likely
prior to both the self and society. The master to be substantially different in orientation from cur-
signifier in language and in the constitution of rent archaeological practice. It remains the case that
the self is the Phallus and the law of the father archaeology has been and is written by men. Homo
Artifex is not Femina Artifex; such concepts are male
(Nye 1988: 115-41). Remember that Lacan is
and do refer to a mankind. To obscure this may be to
re-reading Freud, replacing the biological and perform an ideological service for mankind. Archae-
anatomic with the social and symbolic. For ology, significantly, although eminently well placed
Lacan women are outside the symbolic; outside to do so, has not paid much attention to the origins,
of language, they simply dont know what they nature and development of sexual repression and
are saying (Lacan 1975: 68, quoted in Nye 1988: exploitation.
172):
They see the project of a feminist archaeology
There is only woman as excluded by the nature of as research on sexual (should we read female?)
things which is the nature of words, and it is repression and exploitation! Contrast this with
necessary to say that if there is something of which the consciousness-raising of their other 1987
they themselves complain at the moment its very book. Does the association of sexual repression
much that - simply they dont know what they say, and exploitation with women seem a particu-
that is all the difference between them and me. larly masculine view of the female? In all
fairness, feminism did go through a stage of
Lacan securely fixes womens inferior situation. viewing the female self as dominated,
According to Nye (1988: 140-41), Lacan repressed, and subjugated in an early phase of
asserted concerning women: modern feminist critique, one which was still
1 sexual difference is built into language, into heavily influenced by so-called universal,
thought, and therefore into culture; masculinist theory. Feminist social science,
2 sexual difference must be structured as now beyond this stage, is more sophisticated in
feminine lack and masculine presence; its analysedtheories of gender (Harding 1986;
3 the woman as mother must always be the Rosaldo 1980; Grimshaw 1988; Moore 1988).
natural residue left behind as the speaking
being enters the symbolic; Male and female in writing, reading and
4 the only way out of imaginary illusion is by research
the law of the father; If we continue with the text metaphor we can
5 femininity cannot ever be expressed; ask a question rarely (never?) posed by male
6 drawing the recalcitrant moi into the jes post-processualist archaeologists: what if the
mastery of language will always be difficult reader is a woman? Culler (1983: 42-64)
for women because her je will be more discusses this problem in relation to literary
unstable and her moi more recalcitrant. criticism after structuralism. Womens experi-
Lacan asserts that the unconscious and con- ence will inevitably lead them to different
scious, the symbolic and the imaginary, the interpretations and evaluations of the same
phallus and the law of the father, are universal, (material culture) text. One could equally ask:
the grounding for the constitution of every what if the writer is a woman, what if it is
individual. With this as the basis for their women who are producing textual meaning?
discussion of subjectivity - indeed their stress Perhaps a feminist criticism of archaeology
on the constitution of the self, society, the should confront the problem of women as the
symbolic - it is no wonder that gender is not consumers of male-produced archaeological
even considered in Shanks & Tilleys work, texts (after Culler 1983: 48) and explore the
work that the authors profess, and that others themes of an archaeology by women. This
consider to represent a future archaeoIogy in would by no means be only a critique of
the 1990s(Shanks & Tilley 1989).Can it then be processual archaeology.
IMAGES OF POWER AND CONTRADICTION 511

It seems difficult to imagine the informed cannot see her faults. The faults will become apparent
womanlfeminist reader agreeing with Shanks & later, but after the love is strong enough to hold you to
Tilley in their elucidation of the erotics of her. So, I was held to this theory, in spite of all
museum displays (Shanks & Tilley 1987a: difficulties, by my youthful enthusiasm. . . . So what
happened to the old theory that I fell in love with as a
79-81). Here, displayed artefacts are described
youth? Well, I would say its become an old lady, who
as a violation of the body of the past, a has very little thats attractive left in her, and the
pornography, and the viewing of these as young today will not have their hearts pound when
violation and rape. The pornographic model they look at her anymore. But, we can say the best we
is displayed, available, asking to be taken, to can for any old woman, that she has become a very
be consumed, a sexual commodity, emotionally good mother and has given birth to some very good
detached (Shanks & Tilley 1987a: 80). Perhaps children. And I thank the Swedish Academy of
the male fantasy finds this scenario titillating. Science for complimenting one of them.
Perhaps they are speaking oflto particular
archaeologists - the male archaeologists pro- And a more modern, metaphoric text comes
ducing for the consuming male public. Their from Paul Feyerabend in his defence of his view
underlying assumption is that the producer of of the history of science (quoted in Harding
museum displays is male, since women are the 1986: 120):
objects of pornography and not its producers,
and that the reader is also male. The impli- Such a development, far from being undesirable,
cations of this pornography are far-reaching, changes science from a stern and demanding mistress
since it reinforces the treatment of women as into an attractive and yielding courtesan who tries to
objects in areas of their lives other than the anticipate every wish of her lover. Of course, it is up
erotic (Assiter 1988). Their technique for a to us to choose either a dragon or a pussy cat for our
redemptive aesthetic of museum displays con- company. I do not think I need to explain my own
sists of a greater awareness of politics, a greater preferences.
involvement of the public, etc. The artefact is,
however, still displayed for violation- appar- The feminist critiques of science are full of
ently a more enlightened one with greater such citations from famous male scientists and
participation. Is this redemption? philosophers of science who use metaphors
Feminist critiques of science have found that which view the scientist as a male and the object
similar, perhaps not so explicit, remarks have of study (most often nature, but also theories in
long been made by scientistslacademics. Fran- general) as a female to be subdued and con-
cis Bacon in the early 17th century remarked quered.
when trying to explain the experimental
method in natural science research (Merchant Conclusion
1980: 168): It seems a contradiction on the part of post-
processual archaeology to profess the need for
reflexivity in analysis and theory and at the
For you have but to follow and as it were hound
nature in her wanderings, and you will be able when
same time to ignore the need for reflexivity in
you like to lead and drive her afterward to the same ones own work and thinking. Equally, it seems
place again. . . . Neither ought a man to make scruple a contradiction to describe archaeology as an
of entering and penetrating into those holes and open-ended text yet to assume a singularly male
corners, when the inquisition of truth is his whole readership and a singularly male authorship.
object.. . . As feminism has stressed the need for reflex-
ivity and the awareness of bias and perspective
A more recent example comes from the conclu- in ones research and theorizing, so too has
sion of the physicist Feynmans Nobel Prize post-processualist archaeology; although the
lecture (quoted in Harding 1986: 120): post-processualist theorists seem unaware of
the extensive feminist literature on this topic.
That was the beginning, the idea seemed so obvious to Tilley (1989b: 41) echoes some feminist writing
me and so elegant that I fell deeply in love with it. when he states, Discourses are always histori-
And, like falling in love with a woman, it is only cally and socially positioned and constituted.
possible if you do not know much about her, so you However, this awareness of the historical and
512 ERICKA ENGELSTAD

social position and constitution of discourses have acquired continued, unreflected use of
seems directed only towards the deconstruction cultural and symbolic categories, as public/
of Other discourses, rather than reflexively private, nature/culture, instrumentali
informing ones own. Unfortunately, some post- expressive, which were criticized by feminist
processual archaeology has continued in the anthropologists as part of a universal male bias
same androcentric vein as the science which it which continues a traditional male dominance
criticizes. in western academic disciplines (Scheper-
Women archaeologists who study gender Hughes 1983: 110; Rosaldo & Lamphere 1974;
relations, either women in prehistory or women Rosaldo 1980; Lamphere 1987). This way of
in archaeology, expressly state their perspec- dividing the world in two has been criticized by
tive, which is in fact often considered to be only feminist philosophers as representing the
a perspective by mainstream male archae- value-laden dichotomies inherent in western,
ologists, and they acknowledge that their view masculine philosophy from the ancient Greeks
is partial. Male archaeologists studying prehis- to, and including, the poststructuralists. Power
tory, for example Palaeolithic hunters, rarely as a metaphysical given and a driving force in
state that they are effectively studying only social relations is important in this tradition
men, but often couch their analyses in gen- Professing the need for recognizing a plur-
eralized terms. Feminist theorists admit their ality of meaningful pasts together with a critical
position, the context and perspective of their archaeology is, in the context of the two post-
researchiwriting. Despite the stated need for processual texts by Shanks & Tilley (1987a;
reflexivity from post-processualists, in parti- 1987b),simply obfuscation. Throwing archaeo-
cular, from Shanks & Tilley (1987a; 1987b),I fail logy open to a plurality of pasts is perhaps
to see reflexivity in their writings. In fact, an laudable, but not when one simultaneously
unreflected sense of being right permeates their ignores the need for responsibility and
two books. accountability. Post-processual archaeologys
In addition, post-processualists often show a recognition of perspective in all that we dolsayl
total lack of an understanding of themselves as write, combined with a feminist archaeology,
gendered individuals, as well as of genders part opens new and exciting possibilities for
in the structuring of individuals, culture and archaeological research. But post-processua-
society. Shanks & Tilleys (1987a: 108) fourfold lism should not continue in its present
hermeneutic includes: androcentric vein.

The hermeneutic of working within contemporary Acknowledgements. A major portion of this paper was
society as an active participant, but broadly, gaining written while I was on sabbatical leave at the Scott Polar
knowledge of that which is to be human, to interact Research Institute and the Department of Archaeology,
and participate with others and to be involved in the University of Cambridge. A shorter version was given at the
22nd Annual Chacmool Conference, The archaeology of
struggles about beliefs and social and political values. gender, in Calgary, Canada, in November 1989. I would like
to thank Elin Svenneby, Vigdis Sogne-Mnller, Charlotte
But their politically-aware archaeology appears Damm and Knut Helskog for comments on an earlier version
to include only marginally an archaeology of of this paper.
gender. From structuralism post-processualists

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