Archaeology as science fiction:
A microarchaeology of the unknown
Department of archaeology, university of Gothenburg
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This treatise discusses aspects of the constitution of social identity and social practice in prehistoric social formations. A number of epistemological perspectives of social theory and methodology are examined in order to develop operational strategies suitable for the particular possibilities and constraints of the archaeological record. It is suggested that social practice, i.e. structurative performance, is a suitable object of study as it mediates macro theory of social formations and micro theory of individual identity and motivation. The work departs from a social constructionist standpoint, pointing out the possible different constitution of prehistoric social formations as being temporally distant from contemporary formations. It is argued that the probable existence of ‘extinct’, unknown social practices implies that traditional anthropological and sociological theory and method are not sufficient for archaeological studies. Prehistoric social formations have to be considered on their own terms rather than interpreted through cross-cultural analogies with contemporary societies. Hence the operational strategies suggested here focus on, and seek to increase, the available social information that can be extracted from the archaeological record, including aspects of the local environment. It is proposed that a microarchaeology of locales, i.e. specific analysis of the structurative processes of a smaller time-space sector, is a promising approach to interpret structurating principles and properties of prehistoric social formations. The constitution of the social subject and initiation of social practices are also discussed from various perspectives, including corporeal and psychological aspects. Key-words: social theory, social identity, social practice, materialities, corporealism, constructionism, landscape.