Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory

, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp 211–258

Social agency and the dynamics of prehistoric technology

  • Marcia-Anne Dobres
  • Christopher R. Hoffman
Article

Abstract

Technology is not only the material means of making artifacts, but a dynamic cultural phenomenon embedded in social action, worldviews, and social reproduction. This paper explores the theoretical foundations for an anthropology of technology that is compatible with this definition. Because of its focus on social agency, practice theory provides an appropriate starting point for a social theory of technology. In addition, three other themes require explicit attention: scale, context, and the materiality of technology. Four case studies demonstrate how archaeologists are beginning to take technology beyond its material dimensions, and additional questions are proposed stemming from the theoretical issues raised in the paper. The purpose of this essay is to synthesize a diverse set of emerging ideas and approaches to understand better dynamic community-level social processes of prehistoric material culture production.

Key words

technology social agency worldviews microscale 

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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marcia-Anne Dobres
    • 1
  • Christopher R. Hoffman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeley

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