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Interregional Interaction in Prehistory: The Need for a New Perspective

Edward M. Schortman
American Antiquity
Vol. 54, No. 1 (Jan., 1989), pp. 52-65
DOI: 10.2307/281331
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/281331
Page Count: 14
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Interregional Interaction in Prehistory: The Need for a New Perspective
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Abstract

Recent archaeological efforts to model processes of intersocietal interaction have been hampered by a dearth of conceptual tools suitable to these analyses. In particular, there is a need for a theoretical structure that shifts concern from our traditional focus on spatially distinct cultures and their relations to the physical environment. Without such a shift, questions of intersocietal contact cannot be addressed successfully. This article suggests that the concept of social identity has a role to play in this reorientation. The use of social identity focuses attention directly on intersocietal interactions by encouraging us to ask such questions as who is interacting with whom, under what conditions, and what are the effects of the contact on local social change? This paper defines social identity, provides examples suggesting its utility in archaeological research, and considers the specific questions raised by the application of social identity to archaeological materials.

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