Post-processual/ postmodern archaeology

Wed, 20 Apr 1994 08:01:03 -0600

As recent posts by Nancy Bowles and John Macreary suggest, the effects of
postmodern thinking have been far less profound in archaeology than social and
cultural anthropology. I believe that part of the reason for this comes from
teh fact that archaeology has always been, and continues to be,
interdisciplinary in nature. Consequently, archaeologists have always
entertained the possibility of multivocality and open-ended (as opposed to
closed) explanations. Unfortunately, however, the interdisciplinary nature of
archaeological research does not _necessitate_ multivocality and open
interpretation. The post-processual critique (which does not go far enough,
IMHO) referred to by Bowles is essentially a recognition of the mediated
character of what constitutes archaeological data, method and theory. Unlike
traditional archaeological approaches, a renewed emphasis on the fact that
decisions as to what constitute that data and what can and can't be said about
it are now often recognized as too programmatic, even hegemonic and
patriarchal. I see this as a positive and highly constructive criticism,
which, I hope, will lead us into a more reflexive construction of
archaeological discourse, as well as new realizations of the infinite
perspectives from which it is possible to approach archaeological data. In
other words, post-processualism (which is a misnomer since it really falls
within the original paradigmatic positions of processualism, IMHO) is,
potentially, an opening up, and a making relevent, of a discipline which has
always had a problematic relationship with the present. To conclude my
diatribe, I prefer to wait to see the results of various approaches, rather
than deciding _a priori_ that a new or nontraditional perspective has no merit.
I think that most of us that have looked into the gender-oriented literature in
archaeology will agree that it has already proven its value.


Matt Tomaso
Department of Anthropology
University of Texas at Austin