In 1982, Ian Hodder published “Symbols in Action”, crystallising a series of ideas that opened the possibility of rethinking archaeology. At a later point, Michael Shanks and Christopher Tilley (1987a and b) published two seminal volumes aimed at reconstructing archaeology as a socially informed and engaged discipline. A similar revitalization of archaeology also took place in the early sixties when Lewis Binford proposed a foundation for scientific archaeology. Processualism diverges from the previous unitary paradigm of New Archaeology in its encouragement of many different approaches, methods and perspectives, and in its explicit political commitment. While ‘New Archaeology’ considered archaeology a hard science with one explicit and correct way of practicing it, subsequent postprocessualism, including contextual or interpretative archaeology, has led to a plurality of approaches.
The contextual perspective argues that archaeological practice is directly linked to a subjective scholar. The archaeologist connects the past and the present and considers artifacts, archaeological practice and text as discourse. Material culture is considered active in the construction of subjects and subjectivities, in opposition to the processual emphasis on material culture as adaptation to the natural environment and as a passive product of social activity.
KeywordsMaterial Culture Historical Archaeology Archaeological Research Political Engagement World Archaeological
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