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The Intersections of Identity and Politics in Archaeology

Lynn Meskell
Annual Review of Anthropology
Vol. 31 (2002), pp. 279-301
Published by: Annual Reviews
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4132881
Page Count: 23
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The Intersections of Identity and Politics in Archaeology
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Abstract

This paper traces the conjunction of two interrelated epistemic phenomena that have begun to shape the discipline since the early 1990s. The first entails theorizing social identity in past societies: specifically, how social lives are inscribed by the experiences of gender, ethnicity, sexuality, and so on. The other constitutes the rise of a politicized and ethical archaeology that now recognizes its active role in contemporary culture and is enunciated through the discourses of nationalism, sociopolitics, postcolonialism, diaspora, and globalism. Both trends have been tacitly shaped by anthropological and social theory, but they are fundamentally driven by the powerful voices of once marginalized groups and their newfound place in the circles of academic legitimacy. I argue that our disciplinary reticence to embrace the politics of identity, both in our investigations of the past and our imbrications in the present, has much to do with archaeology's lack of reflexivity, both personal and disciplinary, concurrent with its antitheoretical tendencies. The residual force of the latter should not be underestimated, specifically in regard to field practices and the tenacity of academic boundaries.

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