Re: Gendered archaeology, a comment

Nancy Bowles (nrb6@COLUMBIA.EDU)
Tue, 19 Apr 1994 17:07:04 -0400

On Tue, 19 Apr 1994, Michael Forstadt wrote:

> Like him, I do not believe that prehistoric
> gender *CATEGORIES* may be reconstructed.

What do you mean by categories, we are looking for gender RELATIONS,
anyway I can't believe that gender is any more problematic site of
inquiry than say social relations or "categories" relating to the rise of
the state or warfare, etc.

> Nevertheless, it
> is difficult to imagine how archaeology can possibly move beyond the
> constraints of analogy.

All archaeology or just the archaeology of gender? I would submit that
ALL archaeology is subject to the social constructs of the analyst.
We must reflect on how our own culture is implicated in our
analysis. Much of the work on the rise of the state, for instance, is
predicated on many assumptions brought about by our position in a western
capitalist economy.

> Despite these difficulties, I believe that it *IS* possible to say
> something about gender relations in antiquity through archaeological
> research.
Well, i would hope so.
If archaeology can't say anything about gender how in the world could it
say anything about ANYTHING. Gender relations are central to culture and
any reconstruction of the past which ignores this fact is telling less
than half of the story.

> Note that this sort of research is
> only possible when one realizes that gender roles, although not
> biologically determined in an absolute sense, are at least *sex-linked*
> phenomena.
What go you mean by this? That the ascription of gender is related to
physiology? That simply doesn't work. We have lots of accounts of
multi-gendered societies. While I agree that hastorf's work is pivotal,
why do you privledge bone chemistry over any other interpretative

> However, we can at least throw out most of the
> more androcentric theories that have run rampant through the literature
> of our discipline from its inception to the present day, especially those
> relating to the early prehistoric periods (including theories of human
> origins) for which direct analogy is wholly inappropriate.

Are you saying that direct analogy has been the cause of androcentric
readings of the past? Well, how do we get out of analogy? I realize you
don't want to replace one sort of analogy with another (androcentric with
feminist). But, I wonder if you will ever get out of the bind of analogy.

Nancy Bowles
columbia. univ.