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Assemblages and scale in archaeology

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journal contribution
posted on 02.12.2016, 10:42 by Oliver J. T. Harris
The growing interest in assemblages has already opened up a number of important lines of enquiry in archaeology from the morphogenetic capacities of matter through to a rethinking of the concept of community. In this paper I want to explore how assemblages allow us to reconceptualise the critical issue of scale. Archaeologists have vacillated between expending energy on the ‘great processes’ of change like the evolution of humanity, the colonisation of the globe or the origins of agriculture, and focussing on the momentary, fleeting nature of a small-scale ethnographic present. Where archaeologists have attempted to integrate different scales the result has usually been to turn to Annales influenced or time perspectivism-driven approaches and their fixed, linear, and ontologically incompatible layers of history. In contrast, I will use assemblages to examine how we can rethink both the emergence of multiple scales, and their role in history, without reducing the differences of the small-scale to an epiphenomenal outcome of larger events, or treating large-scale historical processes as mere reifications of the ‘real’ on-the-ground stuff of daily life. As we will see, this approach also has consequences for the particular kind of reality we accord to large-scale archaeological categories.

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Citation

Cambridge Archaeological Journal, 2017, 27(1), pp. 127-139

Author affiliation

/Organisation/COLLEGE OF SOCIAL SCIENCES, ARTS AND HUMANITIES/School of Archaeology and Ancient History/Core Staff

Version

AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Published in

Cambridge Archaeological Journal

Publisher

Cambridge University Press (CUP) for McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research

issn

0959-7743

eissn

1474-0540

Acceptance date

09/07/2016

Copyright date

2017

Available date

10/03/2017

Publisher version

https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/cambridge-archaeological-journal/article/div-classtitleassemblages-and-scale-in-archaeologydiv/2F43400D6F1A935A9229C0ABDB349551

Language

en

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