Agency Theory In Archaeology

Agency Theory in Archaeology Contemporary archaeological inquiry has situated itself under the umbrella of anthropology, an open marriage to many different ways of analyzing material culture; as it gives insight to both the physical world, as well as the social-cultural world. In this paper, I will discuss some of the beginnings to this union, and specifically the theory of agency as it relates to archaeological analysis. I enter into the debate among archaeology scholars by proposing that the theory of agency is a useful paradigm to the analysis of material culture, and adds a dimension beyond the artifacts of the past themselves - deepening the analysis and understanding. It is apparent after many years of the development of archeological …show more content…
The processualists brought many of the methods, the post processualists included the human aspects. Human will, desire, and influence on the physical world could no longer be ignored in the discourse of archaeological data analysis. From contemporary archaeology other theories have emerged as a framework for the analysis of data, however agency theory provides a unique, and attractive framework to merge material culture to social and cultural change (Dobres & Robb, 2005). Agency born out of social theory, purports that humans act on and alter their external environments (Dornan, 2002). It is generally agreed that the nexus of agency is that humans are not merely reacting to the changes in their environments, rather they play an active part in influencing and molding their external surroundings, as Barfield (1997) states; “..[humans].. play a role in the formation of the social realities in which they participate”. Human agency seems to be a large concept, when applied to the specific understanding of archaeological data, and this has opened debate among archaeologists about if agency fits in the realm of archeological inquiry. (Dobres & Robb, 2005). However, Robb (2010) argues that agency brings a past with faces to archaeology, and puts people back in the past. Agency certainly has a large role to play in archeological analysis in the contemporary era. Key to archaeology is material culture, as it and gives insight into how humans transform, create and give meaning to their external environment (Dobres & Robb, 2005). Archaeologists need to appreciate that the material culture is and was the past, and that it can “act back” in a meaningful way about insights on its makers and users (Gell,

Related Documents

Related Topics