Archaeology at the Crossroads: What's New? Author(s): Bruce G. Trigger Source: Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 13 (1984), pp.

275-300 Published by: Annual Reviews Stable URL: Accessed: 01/12/2010 13:04
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Ann. Rev. Anthropol. 1984. 13:275-300 Copyright K 1984 by Annual Reviews Inc. All rights reserved

Bruce G. Trigger
Department of Anthropology, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, H3A 2T7, Canada

Is archaeologyin serious trouble, or does it standon the thresholdof brilliant new accomplishments?Many prehistoricarchaeologistsview with considerable trepidationthe varied and seemingly disparatedirections in which their discipline appearsto be developing. There is also growing uncertaintyabout the theoreticalpropositionsrelating to human behavior that have guided the of interpretation archaeologicaldatafor the past 25 years. Yet at the same time acrimoniousdebatesare yielding to profitabledialogues, while archaeologyas a whole is coming to appear less sectarian within the broader context of anthropology(59-62, 120, 137). All of the majorchanges thataretakingplace of with respect to the interpretation archaeological data influence to some degree the relationshipbetween archaeologyand socioculturalanthropology. To understandwhere current developments may lead it is therefore worth consideringhow these trendshave alreadyalteredthe relationshipthatBinford and Clarkedefined between these disciplines in the early 1960s (10, 11, 43). Paying more explicit attentionto this relationship may also help archaeologists to cope more effectively with the problems being posed by the unparalleled accumulation of archaeological data (76), the accelerating destruction of archaeological sites (186), and the proliferation of expensive and timeconsumingnew techniquesfor analyzingarchaeologicaldata. It may also assist in finding "compatiblegoals and field methods"that will bring cultural resource managementand academic archaeologycloser together (61, p. 431). In the 1950s and 1960s prehistoricarchaeologists emphasizedthe similarities between their field and the rest of anthropology(10, 188, pp. 1-7). Today, whether archaeology and ethnology or social anthropologyare thought of as separatedisciplines or as two branchesof anthropology,it is once again being acknowledgedthatthey exploit differentcategoriesof data, which differentiate 275 0084-6570/84/ 1015-0275$02.00



what each can do and how it does it (16; 18, pp. 19-26; 43; 62, p. 528; 150). Ethnologistscan study directly the complete range of humanbehavior. They can documentthe total extent of materialcultureat every stage of its manufacture, use, and disposal. They can also observe how humanbeings behave and throughthe mediumof language learn somethingaboutotherpeople's beliefs and aspirations. Archaeologists can study only the materialculture that has survivedvariedandoften poorlyunderstood processesof culturalrecycling and naturaldestructionto become partof the archaeologicalrecord. It is now also widely acknowledgedthatbecauseof the reuse anddisposalof artifactspriorto their becoming part of the archaeologicalrecord, archaeologicaldata reveal even less about how artifactswere used than was formerly believed. Yet if archaeologymustbe based to a considerabledegree on the studyof refuse, it is generally agreedthat if it is to have any broadsignificance it must strive to be more than a science of garbage. The principal challenge that has always faced archaeologistshas been to infer human behavior and ideas from materialculture. It is now effectively argued that realizing that goal requires a detailed understanding of the archaeologicalcontexts from which dataare recoveredand also of the systematic relationshipsbetween materialcultureand behavior. Binfordhas labelled generalizationsof the lattersort middle-rangetheory (13, 17). His distinction between middle-rangetheory, which supplies archaeologistswith behavioral information,and general theories, that seek to explain culturalchange, while challengedon theoreticalgrounds(165, p. 36), is of greatpracticalimportance because it distinguishestheoreticalproblemsthatare of particular interestonly to archaeologistsfromthose which areof generalinterestto the social sciences. Social anthropologistshave generally not botheredto search for regularities between materialcultureand humanbehaviorsince they can observe the latter directly. In recentyears this has led an increasingnumberof archaeologiststo do ethnographicresearch, underthe rubricof ethnoarchaeology(14, 80, 81, that 105, 197). This involves searchingfor regularities will permitthemto infer humanbehavior from archaeologicaldata. Such an allocation of resources is particularly difficult at a time when the archaeological record is being threatenedwith destructionas never before. Yet what archaeologylacks in the limited varietyof its data is compensated for by its abilityto studychangeover long periodsof time. Ethnologyis limited by the natureof its data to the present or the near present, althoughby using external sources of information, such as historicalrecords or oral traditions, some time depthmay be obtained.Wherespecific groupshave been restudied, ethnographicfield notes and monographsalso become historicalsources. Yet even underthe best conditions, ethnologists can study change only over very short periods of time. Only by using historical and archaeologicaldata, is it possible to studyactualprocessesof changethatoccurover long periods(18, p. 194; 33).



Between 1910 and the 1950s, Americanarchaeologypassed throughits "culture-historical" phase (189, pp. 83-180). Three importantfeatures distinguishedthe archaeologyof thatperiod. Most importantly,archaeologistssought to define individualarchaeologicalculturesand to use these units to construct local chronologies or culturalsequences. Second, many archaeologistsaimed to learnas much as possible aboutthe way of life thatwas associatedwith each of these cultures. This interest had persisted from a still earlier phase of Americanarchaeology,despite a growingfeeling amongthe stricteradvocates of formalclassification that it was no longer scientific to speculateaboutwhat artifactshad been used for (162, pp. 73-80). This featurehas generally been overlookedor de-emphasizedin the stereotypesof culture-historical archaeology that were formulatedby the "New Archaeology"(189, pp. 133-36). The third characteristicof culture-historicalarchaeology was its much criticized tendency to account for change by invoking external factors operating by means of diffusion and migration. In the 1950s, therewere two important developmentsin Americanarchaeology. The first was a growing interestin culturalecology, exemplified in works such as Caldwell's Trendand Traditionin the Prehistoryof the Eastern United States (24). The second was the emergence of settlementarchaeology, which was heraldedby Willey's monographon changing settlementpatternsin the ViruValley, Peru(187). These developmentssignaledthe startof majorefforts to study the adaptivepatternsand social organizationof prehistoricsocieties. Settlementarchaeologydrew attentionto the importanceof a class of datathat had sufferedrelativelylittle distortionin the course of abandonment hence and providedvaluable informationaboutthe contexts in which humanbeings had lived in prehistorictimes. Both approachesencouragedthe study of change as processes that were internalto prehistoricsocieties and enhanced an underTherewere precedentsfor these approaches standingof theirinternalstructure. in Europeanarchaeology, especially in the work of Clark(41, 42) on ecology and of Clark(40), Childe (32, 36, 38), Tallgren(161), and Soviet archaeologists (106, 117) on social organization. The New or Processual Archaeology that was formulated in the 1960s maintainedthat the highest goal of archaeologywas not to understand history but to emulate social anthropologistsby trying to formulateand test general laws of humanbehavior. This view had alreadybeen enunciatedby Kidderin the 1930s (98, p. 138), TaylorinA Studyof Archeologyin the 1940s (162, pp. 154-57), andWilley andPhillipsin Methodand Theoryin AmericanArchaeology in the 1950s, althoughwhen the latterpublishedthey felt thatlittle hadbeen achieved along these lines (188, p. 5). By the 1950s, a growing number of archaeologistswere smartingfrom the chargethattheirdiscipline was descriptive rather than theoretical in orientation and that they were the not very



intelligent playboys of anthropology.Many ethnologists were claiming that theirown work was more nomotheticin orientationthanit appearsto be today (99). This made many archaeologists anxious to prove that they could do whatever ethnologists could. Among this group, the New Archaeologists dedicatedthemselves to using archaeologicaldatato contributeto the development of a generalbody of social science theory(112, pp. 364-68; 180). At the same time, they borrowedfrom general anthropology,and in particularfrom the work of Stewardand White, a set of concepts that were not sharedat that time by a majority of ethnologists and which remain controversial(87, pp. 117-341). These were chosen, not becausethey were demonstrated be better to founded than others, but because they appearedto enhance the theoretical importanceof archaeologicaldata. The first of these concepts was the doctrine of neoevolutionism (86, pp. 634-53). Neoevolutionismsharedwith the culturalevolutionarybeliefs of the nineteenthcenturythe convictionthatall significantdifferencesamongcultures can be regardedas differing states of developmentfrom simple to complex. Therefore,in accountingfor culturalvariation,developmentis the main factor to be explained. Sahlins and Service, in distinguishingbetween general and as specific evolution, allowed a significantrole for adaptational well as evolutionaryfactorsin creatingculturalvariation(145). Yet despite their interestin ecology, archaeologistshave been more fascinated by the neoevolutionists' unilinear scheme of development from band throughtribe and chiefdom to civilization (144, 153, 154). While paying lipservice as an ecologist to the concept of multilinear evolution, Stewardplayed a majorrole in promotingthis unilinearperspective with his argumentthat only parallels (not differences) object of scientific study (159, p. 209). He among culturesare an appropriate also set a bad example by claiming that only one set of circumstancescould account for the earliest development of civilizations in different parts of the world. He furtherimplied that all othercivilizations were secondaryones that would not have occurredhad the primaryones not already existed (159, pp. 178-209). Despite his disclaimers(158), his treatmentof the origins of civilization must be seen as strongly unilinear. The New Archaeologists also emphasized a systemic view of culture, as settlementand ecologically orientedarchaeologistshad done previously. Binford stressed that culture was something that individualsparticipatedin differentially, and he adopted from White the concept of individual cultures as functionally integratedthermodynamicsystems (184, pp. 364-69). He also view of society thatsimplisticallydefinedfunctionas rejectedthe Durkheimian the positive contributionthat a part makes to the operation of the whole. Durkheim and the British social anthropologistswho adopted his ideas had assumedthatthe variousinstitutionsof a society were harmoniouslyintegrated in the same manneras were the variousorgansthatcomposed a living creature,

AT ARCHAEOLOGY THECROSSROADS 279 the and they interpreted lack of such harmonyas evidence of social pathology anddecay (86, pp. 515-67). The New Archaeologyquicklyreplacedthis static view of integration, as well as White's rathersimplistic concept of systems change, with a model derivedfrom cyberneticsthathad subsystemsintegrated by means of positive and negative feedback (180, pp. 61-87). This seemed particularlyadvantageous because it allowed a systemic understandingof are culturalchange. In general, social anthropologists still experimentingvery Like social anthropologists, cautiouslywith a systems theory approach(141). the New Archaeologistscontinuedto view socioculturalentitiesas systems that are both integratedand clearly bounded. perspecThe thirdcommitmentof the New Archaeologywas to a materialist tive thathad been introducedinto Americanarchaeologynot long before as the resultof a growing interestin ecology. Yet the formulationof this perspective remainedunclear. Archaeologists invoked the technological determinismof White and the ecological determinismof Stewardwithout noting the logical of incompatibility the two (10). These views were soonjoined by a demographic determinisminspiredby the workof the economist Boserup(45, 156), while of soughtto reconcileall threeof the above in the economic determinism Harnis an eclectic synthesis (87). All of these formulations are very narrow by comparisonwith the classical Marxistdeterminismof the mode of production, and from a Marxistperspectivethey constituteexamples of vulgarmaterialism (102). The fourthcommitmentof the New Archaeologywas to a deductivemode of explanationand a related insistence upon the equivalence of explanationand prediction(157; 180, pp. 3-57). Whatevermay be the intrinsicmerit of this approach,which is derived from logical positivism, it is clear that in practice the identificationof explanationand predictionworks best in situationswhere causality is narrowand direct.

Underlyingthese principleswere assumptionsthatwere less clearly spelled out by the New Archaeologists. It was generally agreed that cultures were open environment bothpositively andnegativelywith the natural systems interacting andthereforepartsof a largerecosystem (189, pp. 191-92). Some archaeologists also paid lip service to the idea that neighboring cultures or societies influenced one anotherand might thereforebe considered as parts of larger socioculturalnetworks (11). Generally, however, these influences were analyzed rathermechanicallyin terms of processes of diffusion and adaptationas they had been during the culture-historicalperiod (12, pp. 91-93; 43, pp. 321-55). For the most part, archaeologists studied sociocultural entities in isolation from one another, as if they were closed systems that constituted



independentunits of analysis. This trend reflected the general rejection of diffusionandmigrationas acceptablemechanismsfor explainingchange (5). It was reinforcedwhen settlement archaeologistssuch as Willey (187), Chang (28), Adams (2), and myself (166) began to treatthe archaeologicalrecordas evidence of how the populationof a region had modified its economic, social, and political institutionsover long periods of time. In such an exercise, the traditional succession of archaeologicalcultures,defined mainlyon the basis of stylistic criteria, served primarilyto provide chronologicalindices. Although the growing interestof archaeologistsin explainingchanges within sociocultural units or regions was a majorstep forward,it also represented temporary the of abandonment an earlierarchaeologicalinterestin relationsamong cultures. The tendencyto analyze culturesas isolatedunits was reinforcedby Steward's dictumthatevery borrowingis an independentrecurrenceof cause and effect. By this he meantthata culturewould only copy a traitfromits neighborsif there was a need for it and that the effect was the same as if it had been invented within the recipient culture (159, p. 182; for an applicationsee 27). New Archaeologistsalso tendedto assumethatarchaeologicalcultureswere culturalsystems. They subscribedto the belief the remainsof tightly integrated of social anthropologiststhat changes occurringin any partof the system will and cause varyingdegrees of readjustment, hence change, to occur throughout the entire system. Indeed, the systemic perspectiveof the New Archaeology thandid traditional social anthropology. stresseda higherdegree of integration Most of them also espousedthe deterministicview thatchanges in limitedparts role in bringingabout changes in of a culturalsystem play a disproportionate other sectors (173). A particularlynarrowdeterminismwas promotedin the 1960s by Meggers (114) and Struever (160, pp. 134-35), who combined various ideas of White and Stewardto arguethattotal culturalsystems can be explained as a productof technology interactingwith the environment.They maintained that similarities in these two sectors would produce basically similar total cultural systems. Strong determinismof this sort would be requiredto limit culturalvariabilityto the point where unilinear(or even limited multilinear) evolutionism could adequately account for reality. Something approximatingthis view continues to be maintainedas an ideal by Sanders, Parsons, and Santley, who argue that four or five major (but unnamed) variablesshould be able to account for 80 percentof culturalsimilarities and differences visible in the archaeological record (148, p. 360). Yet these archaeologists honestly admit that they cannot identify these variables or demonstratesuch a high degree of causality. Superficially,a rigiddeterminism,especially one thatis rootedin a materialist causality, would seem to augerwell for archaeology.To judge frommaterial appearingin annualsurveys such as Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory, archaeologists continue to be most successful with reconstructing



palaeo-environments studyingtechnology, subsistence, and long-distance and tradingnetworks. They have also made considerableprogress in delineating prehistoricdemographictrendsand social organization,althoughthere is still much circularityin discussions of relations between demographicand other forms of cultural change (88). Hodder (20, 91, 92) and Wobst (192) have proposedthatstylistic and ritualisticelaborationcan be interpreted evidence as of competition and tension within and between cultures. This may make it possible for archaeologiststo investigatewhat many social theoristsregardas the primary cause of social change (113, p. 93) and, in particular,to test Marxistexplanationsof it (181, p. 97). If controllingfor some or all of these factors allowed prediction of less tangible aspects of cultural systems and explanationsof how whole systems change over time, archaeologistswould be very little disadvantagedby their data by comparisonwith ethnologists. Yet such a situationwould also be extremelylimitingfor archaeologysince, except for the Lower and Middle Palaeolithiccultures, for which no modem parallelsmay exist, archaeologistswould have nothingnovel to explain. All the variations in human societies would be representedby cultures at different levels of development found in the modem world, and these cultures can inevitably be studied more effectively and in greaterdetail ethnographically than archaeologically.If the only significantdifferenceamong societies is the stage of developmentthey are in, archaeologyhas nothing new or valuable to offer anthropology. It can merely illustrate concretely the past history of specific regions and determinewhen they passed throughdifferent stages of development. At best, archaeologycould help to shed light on a few stages of development, such as early civilizations, that are poorly representedin the ethnographic record. The realization of a similar limitation late in the nineteenthcenturyplayed a significantrole in the rejectionof unilinearevolution by Europeanarchaeologistswho were seeking a new and more important role for their discipline. Their realizationthat evolutionarystages alone could not account for the variationsin the archaeologicalrecordled to the development of culture-historical archaeology(169, pp. 54-74; for modem parallels see 102, p. 112). New Archaeologistshave counteredthatarchaeologicaldata, because of their continuity and great time depth, are uniquely useful for studying change over long periods and for resolving major issues such as whether culturalchange normally occurs graduallyand continuously or suddenly in the formof punctuated equilibria(125, 126, 134, 138). I agreethatthis question is important,but it is not the only sort of importantquestion that archaeologistscan hope to address. Most ethnologistshave not foundneoevolutionaryformulations convincing. which viewed cultures as They have rejectedBoasian historicalparticularism collections of traits broughttogetherby historical accidents, the result being constrainedat most by the psychologicalcompatibilityof these traits,as argued



do by Ruth Benedict in Patterns of Culture. Yet most anthropologists not see evidence of the tight integrationof cultures posited by the neoevolutionists. Too many neoevolutionistpropositionswhen examined closely turnout to be special instances being treated as if they were universals. For example, the stage labeled tribal society is often delineated on the basis of New Guinea big-mansocieties which have very differentsocial andpolitical structures from native societies in eastern North America that shared the same mode of productionand aregenerallyviewed as being at the same stage of development (182, p. 156). These objectionsare raisednot only by idealists and eclecticists but also by many materialists.White argued that technology determines the general nature of social organizationand these two together determine the generalnatureof ideology. He cautioned, however, thatit was not possible to predict the specific content of social organization or belief systems from technology (183, p. 346). For many materialistscausality means that factors such as technology, demography,and the relationsof productionmay restrict the rangeof possible variationin social organizationand patternsof belief; not that they determine the specific content of these aspects of culture (75, pp. 202-4). The observationthatthereis more free variationin social organization and beliefs than in economic patternsprovides a powerfultheoreticalbasis for Hawkes's argumentthat prehistorictechnology, economic behavior, social organization, and religious beliefs constitute a hierarchy of levels that archaeologistsfind increasinglydifficult to infer (89). Despite the ridiculethat the New Archaeology has heaped upon this hierarchy(12, pp. 93-94), Hawkes's scale of difficulty shows signs of surviving and even winning over its detractors(18, pp. 16, 32; 83, pp. 7-8). During the 1970s, many archaeologistsbecame disillusioned as a result of formulationsto the interpretation their of theirefforts to apply neoevolutionary data. Fried's (74) argument that many of the more complex phenomena associated with tribal societies were productsof acculturation resulting from contact with Westernculturesratherthan spontaneousinternaldevelopments has caused some archaeologiststo regardthis stage with greatsuspicion (136). Earle's (63) demonstrationthat the economy of Hawaii, and by implication of those of other chiefdoms, were not based on the centralizedredistribution staples is now widely accepted and has begun to modify the views that archaeologistshold of this stage (50, pp. 25-38; 124). Less attentionhas been that in Hawaii physical coercion was used to extract paid to his demonstration economic surplusesfor the benefit of the upperclasses (64, pp. 18-19). This observationchallenges the idea that institutionalizedinequalitypreceded the developmentof coercion and the state. The latterposition has been popularin Americananthropologysince it was madecentralto Steward'strialformulation of the developmentof civilization (159, pp. 178-209). It is also closely related to popularviews of Americansociety. We are now beginningto see a growing

ARCHAEOLOGY THECROSSROADS 283 AT emphasis on alternativeevolutionarypatternswith respect to the development of complex societies (19, 71, 190) that in some respects representsa returnto the multilinearviews that were eclipsed among Americananthropologistsby Steward'swork (30, 73). Thereis also a growing emphasison conceptualizing evolutionarychanges in terms of processes ratherthan patterns(70, 96, 97, 113, 178, 196). Growing skepticism about neoevolutionism also encourages doubts about the assumptionsof strong and focused causality on which it is based. This oppositionfirst became evident in archaeologyin the form of growing support thatavoidedpreconceivedideas aboutthe nature for a systems theoryapproach of causalityandwas conceptualizedin a more inductivefashionas a methodfor has searchingfor regularities.This approach flourisheddespite the claim thatit is neo-Boasian in its general orientation(110). In particular,it has manifested itself in growing claims thatpolitical and social, as well as economic, factors play a dynamic role in bringing about social change (23, 48, 123 ). Opposition to neoevolutionismhas also been manifested in the increasing supportfor an explicitly societal approachto the study of the past. The early formulationsof the New Archaeology by Binford and Clarkewere framed in terms of culturalsystems (10, 43). More recently therehas been a tendency to emphasize social systems (130, 168), a position alreadyfavoredby settlement archaeologistsin North America and by Renfrew (131, 132) in England, but with still earliermanifestationsgoing back throughthe work of Childe (32, 36, 38) and Soviet archaeologists(106) to Durkheimand Marx. Gould has argued ratherweakly that culture is a misleading concept for analyzing human behavior because it "posits an artificialseparationbetween man and the natural world"(61, p. 434; 81, p. 44). Otherarchaeologistshave more appropriately expressed doubts about whether individual cultures are universal or even units of study (92, pp. 2-8; 133; 155; 167, pp. 14-15). In particuappropriate lar, it is queriedwhether,having been designed for the analysisof small-scale, sedentarysocieties, the concept of the archaeologicalculturehas much value ones for studyingmoreopen hunter-gatherer or the complex political structures of the early civilizations (167, pp. 17-18). Those who are influenced by Durkheimiansociology see the structured aspect of humanbehavioras being a networkof social relations, with cultural traits,whetherthey have to do with technology, social organization,beliefs, or values acquiring their functional significance from their relationshipto the social system (86, pp. 518-19). This view does not deny the importanceof and culture,or the humancapacityfor symbolic manipulation communication, as a crucial emergentpropertyof humanbehavior, the origins of which can be explained within the scope of a materialistperspective(195). Yet it avoids the temptationto treatcultureas an autonomoussystem by firmly insisting thatits functioningmust be understoodin relationshipto the patternsof social interac-



tion by which humanlife is sustainedas humanbeings interactwith each other and theirenvironment.Withinthe longer perspectiveof primatedevelopment, social systems antedatethe emergence of culture. The concept of society thus allows a much more specific view of integration,as well as a more humancenteredone thandoes the idea of a culturalsystem. The growinginfluenceof a societal perspective therefore correlates with the abandonmentof a narrow technological or ecological causality and of neoevolutionism. The assumptions of Hodder's structuralor. symbolic approach reinforce ratherthan contradictthis view. If culture is structured,as the structuralists claim, it is on a psychological level andhence the orderingis of a differenttype from the articulationsposited by those who view societies or cultures as functionally integrated systems. Structuralanthropologistscannot agree to is what extent symbolic structuring shapedby and thereforereflects the material basis of human life (93, pp. 10-14). Even most of those who claim that thereis a causalconnection(56, 69, 109) tendto see it as a loose one thatleaves much room for other factors to influence the resulting cognitive patterns. Extreme idealists would deny a direct connection between society and the patternsunderlying human thought which they would attributeto universal properties of human psychology (87, pp. 165-215). Hodder argues that, whichever of these views more nearly describes reality, insofar as human thoughtand perceptionplay a role in shapingthe materialbasis of humanlife, the result is to increase random variation in human behavior and to make culturalpatternsless predictable(93, pp. 1-14). While a viable society can be analyzed as a structurednetwork of human interaction,it is uncertainto what degree either a cultureor a society can be accuratelydescribed as a system. For a society to survive, certain functional prerequisitesmust be maintainedat an adequatelevel (1). Beyond that, social to scientists disagree whetherits partsare interrelated a considerabledegree or thereis much room for free variation.We have alreadynoted thattheremay be morevariationin some areasof culturethanin others, and it is possible thatthe degree of constraintvaries from one cultureto another.The degree to which social or cultural units constitute formal systems is for archaeologists and anthropologiststo determine. It is not something that can be assumed in advance, as has been done all too often in the past (147, 173).

Thereis also a tendencyto abandonthe once fashionableview that societies or cultures are closed or tightly bounded units of analysis that can be studied independentlyof one another(104; 179, p. 348; 194); the tendency now is to pay more attention to the importanceof external stimuli in bringing about

ARCHAEOLOGY THECROSSROADS 285 AT culturalchange. This was manifestedin the developmentof the concept of an "interactionsphere"to explain how Hopewellian ritual patternscame to be sharedby many differentsocieties in the AmericanMidwest (12, p. 204; 25). and Lamberg-Karlovsky others also indicatedthe need to view Mesopotamian civilization as part of a much larger zone in which from early times many culturesshaped each other's developmentthroughvarious forms of interrelations (6, 100, 107). Therehas also been discussion of "peerpolity"interaction in prehistoricEurope (135) and "clusterinteraction"in Mesoamerica(128). The intensive archaeological surveys of Sanders and his coworkers in the of Valley of Mexico have revealedmarkeddiversitiesin local patterns development within thatregion and also the need to studythe whole valley in orderto what was happeningin its variousparts.For example, the massive understand increase in populationand the growth of urbanismin the TeotihuacanValley can only be understoodwhen it is realizedthat similarpopulationgrowth was not occurring elsewhere in the Valley of Mexico, but on the contrary the populationwas declining at thattime (148). Adams has shown the same to be true in his studies of Mesopotamiansettlementpatterns(3, 4). This work has severely challenged the belief that events in one area can be taken to be representativeof a whole region. The latter was the view that had guided ethnographic community studies in the 1940s and 1950s and which also pervadedthe Viru Valley archaeologicalproject (149, p. 360). More recently, Blantonet al have pointedout thatbecause of the high levels of interactionand economic interdependence Mesoamericain prethroughout historic times, the developmentof one region, such as the Valley of Mexico, of cannotbe understoodindependently the rest. They proposeto treatthe whole unit" (19). Such a view places of Mesoamerica as a single "macroregional prodigiousdemandsuponthe informfnation gatheringcapacityof archaeology.It also raises importantquestions about how the boundariesof macroregional units are to be establishedor if such boundariescan be defined. The core of what is recognized as Mesoamericaclearly was united by intensive and reciprocal economic, political, andreligiousinteraction despite its diverse andoften forbiddingterrain.Yet it is also known that economic and ritualinfluences of Mesoamericanorigin influencedthe culturaldevelopmentof the southwestern United States and easternNorth America, althoughit is not often possible to determinethe social context in which these contactsoccurred(9, 66). Examining interactionsof this sort brings archaeologistsback to the sort of problems that once were studied under the rubricof diffusion. Recently some archaeologistshave attemptedto introducemore theoretical betweensocieties by employingWallerstein's rigorinto the studyof interaction concept of world systems (19, 67, 100, 101, 103; 140, p. 58). World-systems theory involves the examinationof large-scale spatial systems, assuming an



interregional division of labor in which peripheral areassupply core ones with raw materials, the core areas are politically and economically dominant, and the social and economic development of all regions is constrained by the changingroles thatthey play in the system (179). Kohl has pointedout thatthe world systems of antiquity probably only superficially resembled those of modem times (103). In particular,he has suggested that the rankingsof cores and peripherieswere probablyless stable than they are now and that political force may have played a moreovertrole in regulatingthem. While this remains to be substantiated,what is importantis the growing realizationthat societies are not closed systems with respect to their neighbors any more than with respect to their environmentand that the developmentof a cultureor society may be constrainedor influencedby the broadersocial networkof which it is a part.Thereis also increasingrecognitionthatthe rules governingthese processes arethemselves worthyof scientific investigation.The challengeis to extend a systemic analysis to incorporatewhat used to be called diffusion. It is also being acknowledgedthatnot only goods, persons, andideas but also whole institutionsmay be transferred from one society to another.The introduction of the Christianchurch as a hierarchicalorganizationwith its own trainedpersonnelinto Anglo-SaxonEnglandandof Buddhisminto Japanin the sixth centuryA.D. left a markedandlastingimpacton the economic, social, and political organizationof these countries that was different from what would have happenedhad a purely indigenousstate cult developed in eitherof them. In bothcases the clericalbureaucracy the significantlystrengthened administration of nascentstates (169, pp. 216-28). The fact thatsocieties areopen to their neighborsintroducescomplicationsthatmaketheirtrajectories development of harderto predict than archaeologistshad previously assumed. These observationsraise additionalquestionsaboutthe scientific validity of the concept of socioculturalsystems. No one will deny that there are various boundariesmarkedby differingdegrees of social interaction.Yet can a hierarchy of levels be distinguishedin which individualscan be seen as membersof families, families as parts of communities, communities as components of societies, and societies forming larger interactionspheres?Or do individuals participate interactionat manydifferentlevels and as differentiallyin patterned membersof many differentkinds of groups (1 13)? One must not minimize the importanceof brokersand decisionmakerswho, as chiefs, rulers, and government officials, mediate between differentlevels of society and effect varying degrees of closure. Yet a sober analysis of networksof social, political, and economic interaction calls into serious question the idea that societies or culturesare more significantunits of analysis than are a whole series of other units. The entity to be studied is determinedby the problem that is being investigated.


Ethnologistshave long assumedthatthe earliestrecordeddescriptionsof native cultures reveal what they were like prior to Europeancontact and that such informationcan be used without serious question for cross-culturalstudies of culturalvariation.In NorthAmerica, archaeologyis now revealingthat native cultureswere vastly alteredas a result of Europeancontact before the earliest descriptionsof these cultures were recordedby Europeans(49, 129, 185). It also seems possible thatevery hunter-gatherer tribalsociety in the world was or influenced to some degree by contact with technologically more advanced societies prior to ethnographicstudy (21; 74; 118, p. 228; 170; 193). The Bushmen of southern Africa have been treated as a paradigmatichuntergatherersociety. Yet there is now growing interestin the ways in which their life has been influenced in recent centuriesby contacts with Europeansettlers and and with their agricultural pastoralBantu and Hottentotneighbors(151). The impact that these groups have had on the southernAfrican environment may also have alteredBushmenlife in manyways. Underthese circumstances, to it is dangerousfor anthropologists assumethatBushmenor any othermodern societies are necessarily equivalent to Palaeolithic ones. hunter-gatherer The variouseconomic ties thatlink modernhunter-gatherers theirnonhunto ter-gathererneighbors also call into question whether modem and ancient or hunter-gatherer tribalsocieties sharethe same mode of productionand can therefore be treated as societies at the same stage of development. Binford recently used northernnative groups that have engaged for generations in trappingand exchanging furs with the world economic system as a basis for aboutthe natureof hunter-gatherer suggestingcertainuniversalgeneralizations in adaptations high latitudes(15). Some anthropologists believe thatbecauseof their inherentflexibility, the economies of at least some of these groups have not been radically alteredby the fur trade;others disagree (72, pp. 14-15). Only detailed archaeologicalstudies can objectively determineto what extent or ethnographicdescriptions of hunter-gatherer tribal agriculturalsocieties provide a representative pictureof what these societies were like in prehistoric times (164). Until more such studies have been made, the significance of major crossculturalinvestigationsbased on ethnographicdata must remain in doubt. For example, Driver and Massey's information about North American Indian cultures was drawn from descriptions of societies that had been altered in variousways as a result of Europeancontact(58). Otherstudies have revealed that such data can give a false impression of the diversity in native cultural patterns (65, pp. 15-44). It is therefore necessary to ascertain what native NorthAmericansocieties were like priorto Europeandiscovery before we can



fully evaluateDriverand Massey's conclusion thatdiffusion played at least as importanta role as did functionalconstraintsin determiningtraitdistributions among North American societies. Archaeology has an importantrole to play not only in unravelingthe complex history of the past but also in evaluating anthropologicalproblems of major theoreticalimportance. It is becoming increasingly evident to archaeologiststhat ethnologists or social anthropologists,whetherconcernedwith social structure change, are or investigating the results of acculturation,because their data concern smallscale societies that are in the process of being destroyedor incorporated more completely into the modernworld system. History and archaeologyalone can studythe evolution of culturesin the past (33). It is also becoming clear thatno society can be properlyunderstoodor even classified from a structural point of its to view withoutdetermining relationship othersocieties (194). Every society of transformation its own previous state, must be understoodas the structural the elements of which were manipulatedas part of social and ecological strategieswithina contextthatincludesneighboringsocieties (75; 102, p. 112). The latternot only providedcompetitionbut also were sourcesof new elements for manipulation. Relations among contemporary societies, especially ones at differentlevels of development, are as important sourceof change andthereforeas important a an evolutionary force and as legitimate an object of anthropologicalunderstanding as are the internally generated changes that have been studied by neoevolutionaryanthropologists.Evolutionarytheory should not only be concerned with endogenouschange. It should also seek to understand how neighboring societies have influencedeach other's developmentthroughout history. In particular,archaeologistsshould be concernedwith developing generalizations abouthow societies, especially those with differentkinds of economies, interestedin problemsof developinfluenceeach other. Social anthropologists ment are alreadydoing this for presentday small-scale societies that are being drawn into the capitalist world system. Archaeologistsare challenged by the more formidabletask of developing similar generalizationsfor a vast arrayof precapitalistsocieties. Alexanderand Mohammedhave pioneeredthis sort of approachby elaboratinga frontiermodel to explain the interactionof huntersocieties in the Sudan (7). Golson has stressed gathererand early agricultural the need to consider competition among different types of hunter-gatherer societies as a major source of change (79). By its very nature, a body of evolutionarytheory that seeks to explain not only internally generated change but also change resulting from interaction between different societies must be exceedingly complex. It is probablyunrealistic to think of such a theoreticalstructureever being completely elaborated, It is something that will continue to be refined as long as the social sciences make progress in understandinghuman behavior. Such a body of

ARCHAEOLOGY THECROSSROADS 289 AT evolutionary theory will also tend to be more eclectic and inductive in its origins than the traditionaltenets of the New Archaeology would approve. It will, however, providea more substantialand realisticbasis for understanding cultural evolution than has neoevolutionary anthropology, with its almost exclusive preoccupationwith endogenous explanationsof change. It will also move archaeology closer to the general practices of the social sciences both methodologically and theoretically. At the same time that archaeologistsperceive the need to broadenthe range of their theoretical generalizations, they are also, as we have already seen, acknowledging that individual societies are so complex, their structuresso loose and the exogenous forces influencing them so eclectic that the precise course of their developmentcan at best be predictedonly partiallyand for the shortterm. For many archaeologiststhe complexityof early civilizations, or of any humansociety, rendersthe conceptof causalitymeaninglessfor discussing theirorigins (70, 142). Yet if historians,aftergenerationsof intensiveresearch, continueto debatethe reasonsfor the disintegration the RomanEmpire,it is of unrealisticfor archaeologiststo imagine either that the processes they surely studycan be definitively explainedby simplisticformulationsor thatcomplexity necessarilyprecludesunderstanding (68). Above all, the prolongedand (by archaeologicalstandards)sophisticateddebate concerningthe collapse of the Classic Mayacivilizationdemonstrates moredataareneededto narrowthe that range of possible explanations and permit the formulationof more refined researchproblems(51). While increasingtheoreticalsophisticationnarrowsthe it rangeof the unpredictable, is no morepossible for social scientiststo retrodict the past than it is for them to predictthe futurewith certainty.The explanation of the past is thus by its very natureidiographic,even thoughgeneralprinciples in mustbe invokedto supportarguments every possible instance.The complexity of social science data seems to rule out the claim thatpredictionis the only legitimate form of explanation. Historical knowledge, in the sense of an understandingof how and why specific societies developed as they did in the past, is essential for explaining theircurrentsocial structure.As Childe pointedout long ago, the precise form of the British constitutionor of Protestantism the nineteenthcenturycould in not be deduced from the capitalist system alone (31, p. 110). In this he was echoing Marx's moregeneralobservationthathumanbeings maketheirhistory under circumstances inherited from the past (102, p. 112). Because only archaeologyand documentaryhistory provide the evidence requiredto delineate culturaldevelopmentin the past, they are essential for understanding the historicalbackgroundof the data on which all of the other social sciences are based. The realizationthatthis is so is slowly providingthe basis for a new and complementaryrelationshipbetween archaeologyand ethnology. It is a relationship in which archaeology does not try to emulate ethnology, but by



studying the evolution of concrete social systems provides an indispensable and basis for producingreliable generalizationsabout structure change for the to social sciences. Farfrombeing peripheral these disciplines, archaeologyand them. history become central for understanding

The New Archaeologyhas paid very little attentionto studyingthe cosmology, religiousbeliefs, values, or even (with the notableexceptionof lithic reduction processes) the technologicalknowledge of prehistoriccultures(22). Studies of archaeoastronomy andprehistoriciconography(57, 77, 122) have generally (8) been carried out by archaeologists not closely associated with the New Archaeology.The lack of interestin religiousbeliefs is extraordinary, since the evidence for them is ubiquitous in the archaeological record from Middle Palaeolithictimes onward. Such investigationsappearto have been precluded by the strong emphasis on ecology and by the difficulties that seem to be encountered in applying a deductive strategy to the investigation of such problems. As Dunnell has observed, "the ecological and evolutionary approaches, borrowed from the biological sciences, were not designed to explainmotivationalandsymbolic systems"(62, p. 521). Therehas also been a tendency for the New Archaeology, with its narrowcausality, to regardthese aspects of cultureas epiphenomenathat are of little importancefor explaining culturalchange. Yet such interestsare by no means excluded by a materialist of orientation.Childe arguedlong ago that the incorporation these aspects of culture into an overall explanationof human behavior was essential for the development of a successful materialistresearch strategy (37). Among the strong points of structuralor symbolic archaeologyis the fact that it is once of againdrawingattentionto the potentialimportance suchcognitive factorsfor explaining culturalchange (92, 93). The specific contentof knowledgeandbeliefs is highly variableeven among cultures that have similar modes of production. Generalizationsseem to be possible about the broad types of knowledge and beliefs that correlate with societies that sharea similarlevel of complexity or thathave the same general type of economy, but these generalizationsare at such a high level that they explain only a small portion of the variation that can be observed in the archaeologicalrecord (35, 69). As archaeologistsonce again take account of the complexity of humanphenomena,they arebeginningto realize thatuniversal generalizations do not exhaust the regularitiesthat characterizehuman behavior. Universal generalizationsmay vary from major assumptionsabout historical processes to regularitiesdealing with relatively trivial aspects of humanbehavior(146, pp. 8-30). Yet in economics and economic anthropology, the substantivistsargue that majorgeneralizationsabout humanbehavior



may apply only to a limited rangeof societies. They maintainthat the body of theorydeveloped by classical economists to explain marketbehavioris applicable only for explainingthe frameworkof capitalistsocieties. A quite different corpus of theory is needed to explain the economic structureof noncapitalist societies (52). While economic formalists deny this distinction, the fact remains that many useful generalizations may apply only to societies at a particular level of developmentor occupying a specific type of environmental niche. The thirdtype of generalizationis one specific to an individualcultureor to a single groupof historicallyrelatedones. An examplewould be the definitionof the canons of beauty that governed ancient Egyptian or Greek art (34, pp. 43-59; 119, pp. 132-36). Generalizationsabout aesthetic standardscan be derived from formal studies of the evidence; however, when written records from early times are not available, more esoteric meanings can be recovered only by means of a direct historical approach. Many of the best pioneering studies of this sort in the field of cognitive studieshave been done by historical archaeologists(56, 78). The importanceof this sortof approachfor prehistoricarchaeologyhas been demonstratedby Hall and Hamell. Hall has drawn upon ethnographicand ethnohistoricalmaterialconcerningnative religious beliefs and symbolism in of easternNorthAmericato explain the structure Adena burialmoundsas well classes of artifactswere includedwith MiddleWoodlandburials as why certain in (84). Hamellhas used regularities Iroquoian,Algonquian,andSiouanmyths to explain the significance of the inclusion of crystals, objects made from marine shell and native copper, and various other materialsin eastern North Americanburialcontexts from late Archaictimes into the historicperiod (85). Both of these anthropologistsoffer explanationsof regularitiesin burialcustoms for which no cross-culturalgeneralizationcould account. The main problem that is posed by this work, as by most interpretations offered by structuralor symbolic archaeology, is that of verifiability. In the case of Hall and Hamell, proof rests upon the validity of analogies drawn between ethnographicallyand archaeologicallyknown cultures that there is soundreasonto believe arehistoricallyrelated.Hamell's evidence is particularly convincing because there is strong proof in the archaeologicalrecord of continuityin the use of these materialsfrom their earliest occurrenceinto the historicalperiod. The best verificationis undoubtedlythe establishmentof a universalcorrelationbetweenwhatis observedin the archaeologicalrecordand what is inferredfrom it; in other words, an absolute middle-level generalization. Yet it is increasinglyrecognizedthat, becauseof the complexityof human phenomena,most correlationswill be statisticalratherthanabsolute, and most statisticalcorrelationswill be of a lower ratherthan a higherdegree of magnitude. This is something that anthropologistsengaged in cross-culturalstudies



have long recognized and had to contend with (163). Under these circumstances, the problem of equifinality, or different causes producingthe same effect, becomes increasingly troublesome, as archaeologists engaged in simulationstudies have become aware (90, 143). Because archaeology deals with complex phenomena and is not an experimentaldiscipline, much of what is accepted as true tends to be what each generationof archaeologists finds reasonable. Archaeologists may establish sound correlations, weed out logical inconsistencies, and demonstratethat do acceptedinterpretations not accordwith new data. Yet their interpretations are subtly influenced by social and personal preconceptions of reality that preclude an awareness of alternative explanations which might encourage holds true. In formaltestingor of the actuallimits withinwhich a generalization many instances, neither adequate data nor strong enough correlations are availableto counteractsuch biases. Most historianshave long realizedthatthe of interpretation humanaffairsis itself a socially conditionedphenomenon(26, 47). Under these circumstances,the difference between a nomothetic generalization and an argumentby analogy is by no means clear-cut(29). Finally, refusalto explain culturalregularitiesbecause they are not universalones is to ignore and belittle large areas of human experience. If the structuralistsare correct,it may also limit or precludethe abilityof archaeologiststo explainwhy archaeologistsseem preparedto accept the change has taken place. Structural that the inability of archaeologiststo account for many specific conclusion regularities,because the direct historical approachcannot be applied, would indicate that there is much about the past that archaeologymay be unable to infer and explain. The growingawarenessof the complexityof whatarchaeologyhas to explain not only is calling into questionthe claim thatdeductivemodes of explanation ones (39), but also is leading more archaeologiststo are the only appropriate acknowledgethattheirexperienceof the presentinfluencestheirinterpretation of the past (94, 111). The milieu in which archaeologistslive and work is seen as influencing both the questions they ask and the answers that they are predisposedto regardas reasonable.This not only plays a majorrole in shaping national variations in archaeologicalpractice but also changes over time as social conditionschange. The situationdoes not appearto be a reflectionof the immaturityof archaeology, as some archaeologistshave suggested (44, p. features(175). The adoptionin recentdecadesof 154), butone of its permanent the Boserup-based view that population increase is a major factor driving to humanbeings froman easy andcarefreelife as hunter-gatherers an existence characterized increasingexploitation, oppression, and hardwork has been by interpretedas an archaeologicalreflection of currentpolitical and economic as insecurityin the United States, particularly it is expressed in concerns with uncontrolledpopulation growth, disastrouspollution, and the exhaustion of

ARCHAEOLOGY THECROSSROADS 293 AT nonrenewableresources(171). The widespread,largely implicit acceptanceof a materialistperspectiveby Americanarchaeologists(102, p. 91) also appears to reflect changing social conditions. Concernwith social factors influencing the developmentof archaeologyhas led to a growing interestin the history of the discipline (54, 82, 95, 115, 152, 189). The relativistview does not deny that, as a result of archaeological research, it is possible to obtain a more of complete and objective understanding the past. Indeed, it can be arguedthat of an understanding the social factors that influence archaeologicalresearch should enhance the self-awareness of archaeologistsand hence the value of The theirinterpretations. resultsof such researchseem to be of interesteven to those archaeologistswho reject it as "irrationalist" (18, pp. 233, 241). In recentyears therehas been muchdiscussionof the goals of archaeological that research.It would appearthatthe propositionis graduallybeing abandoned data archaeologicaldatashouldbe used in muchthe same way as ethnographic to generalizeabouthumanbehavior.The problemsof processingarchaeological data put them at a disadvantagefor this purpose. Some archaeologistshave seen their discipline as the nucleus of a new science of materialculture (43), althoughothers would restrictthis role to historicalarchaeology(55, p. 167). Yet, while archaeology is based on materialculture, it can inform us about many other aspects of humanbehavior. Hence most archaeologistsprobably agree that to restrictthe discipline in this mannerwould be to cultivate a new artifact-centered (53, antiquarianism pp. 370-76). Thereis also agreementthat one of the key strengthsof archaeologicaldata is their ability to document change over long periods of time. At present the growing awareness of the complexity of the forces thatareresponsiblefor bringingaboutculturalchange is blunting the distinction between science and history that has dominated prehistoricarchaeologysince the 1950s (18, pp. 26-30; 172; 191, p. 8). There is no agreementin the social sciences abouthigh-level generalizationsconcerning humanbehavior. Even if there were such a body of theory, comparableto the synthetictheory of biological evolution, this would not provide automatic answersto a host of more specific problemsof humanbehavior(87, p. 77). Nor would it permit the predictionof specific developments in prehistorictimes. The first responsibility of archaeologists therefore seems to be to recover evidence about the past and to use every analyticaldevice and every scrap of knowledge about human behavior at their disposal to interpretthis record as evidence of prehistorichuman activity. within the limits thatarchaeologicaldatawill permit, of The understanding, what has happenedto specific groups of people in the past is a matterof great humanisticas well as scientific interest. Througharchaeologicalstudies, the idea that nonliteratepeoples were primitiveand unchangingsavages has been refuted. Emergent nations in Africa and elsewhere look to archaeology for knowledge of theirprecolonialdevelopment(127). In NorthAmerica, Austra-



lia, and otherpartsof the world where native peoples have been overwhelmed by European settlement, the image of the "unchangingsavage" has been demonstratedto have been a myth of colonialism (121). In spite of this, the historical synthesis of archaeological data, while reviving in American archaeology,has failed to produceany work of outstandingquality(174). The main weakness of such studies is their continuing domination by often illconsidered ecological approaches and the lack of attention being paid to nonuniversalgeneralizations. The notion that archaeologicaldata should be used primarilyto formulate and test a potpourriof universal theories about humanbehavioras an end in itself is increasinglybeing recognizedas neocolonialistandinsultingto the thirdworldandto nativepeoples (108, 116, 176). By ignoring its social responsibilities, archaeology may be dooming itself to irrelevance, as well as encouragingneedless hostility (191). The patternsof human development as revealed through idiographic studies that employ archaeologicalor historicaldata, or a combinationof both, are themselves a legitimate object of generalization. The duty of evolutionary theory is to explain what has really happened in the past, not to construct hypothetical schemes of development using ethnographicdata, which are clearly insufficient for the task.

Duringthe past 25 years, archaeologyhas experiencedimpressiveinstitutional growthand received escalatingfinancialsupport.Assisted by the development of radiocarbonand otherphysical datingtechniques, it has also turnedfrom a preoccupationwith chronologyto make considerableadvancesin interpreting its data in behavioralterms. All of this has enhancedthe statusof archaeology aboutwhatthe goals as a social science. Yet todaythereis growinguncertainty of archaeologyshould be as well as aboutthe validity of many of the assumptions that guided the development of archaeology in the 1960s. There is an increasing desire to define a role for archaeology that takes account of its specific data base and which as far as possible complements rather than duplicates those played by the other social sciences. This necessitates the for of developmentof a body of theoryappropriate the interpretation archaeological data: Binford's middle-rangetheory. The gradual rejection of the neoevolutionaryviews that played such an role in the developmentof the New Archaeologyis leading, not to a important returnto Boasian historical particularism,but to a more complex and less deterministicview of humanbehavior.Because of this, therearefewer aspects of human behavior that archaeologists can dismiss as epiphenomenal for understandingcultural change. The challenge is simultaneously to try by whatevermeans to infer more aspects of humanbehaviorfrom archaeological

ARCHAEOLOGY THECROSSROADS 295 AT data and to determinewhatkinds of problemsarchaeologistsmay and may not hope to address satisfactorily. It is also being recognized that societies and cultures are open with respect not only to the environmentbut also to each other. Any generalexplanationof culturalchange must thereforetake account of how neighboringsocieties influence one anotheras well as of changes that areof endogenousorigin. This poses a formidablechallenge for archaeologists humanbehaviorbetter. All of these to join in a long-termeffort to understand developments negate the sharp distinctions that archaeologists have drawn between inductive and deductive approachesand between the explanationof of specific historicalsequences andthe elaboration theoriesof humanbehavior and socioculturalprocess. The resultshouldbe thatin the long runarchaeology while historyis acknowledgedto becomes increasinglyhistoricalin orientation in the sense that generalizationsare both a means and an end of be scientific, historicalresearch. In the long run, archaeologistsalso may learn more fully that in historicalinvestigationsprogressis measuredas much by the questions thatresearcherslearnto ask as by the answersthatthey offer at any given time (46, pp. 24-30). ACKNOWLEDGMENTS The core of this paper was presented in March 1983 to the Departmentof Anthropology, Wellesley College, and the following May to the Centre for Prehistory,Universityof WesternAustralia.For theirconstructivecomments, I wish to thankthe participants these seminars.The paperwas writtenwhile I in was the recipient of sabbatical leave from McGill University and a Leave Fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. LiteratureCited
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