Beyond identification: An introduction

Eleanor Conlin Casella, Chris Fowler

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingForeword/postscript


Questions of identity have plagued the field of archaeology since its earliest antiquarian origins. The ability to discover, recover, or uncover a past culture required the assumption of a direct relationship between its material remains and social identity. Artefacts and architectural features alike have been conceptualized as "signatures" or " representations" of specific cultures-from the "Beaker People" of the European Neolithic to the "Georgian" world view of eighteenth century Colonial America. Thus, archaeologists have employed an explicitly material focus in their examinations of identity. Yet, as people move through life they continually shift affiliation from one position to another, dependent on the wider contexts of their interactions. Different forms of material culture may be employed as affiliations shift, and the connotations of any given set of artefacts may change. In this volume the authors explore these overlapping spheres of social affiliation. Social actors belong to multiple identity groups at any moment in their life. It is possible to deploy one or many potential labels in describing the identities of such an actor. Two main axes exist upon which we can plot experiences of social belonging-the synchronic and the diachronic. Identities can be understood as multiple during one moment (or the extended moment of brief interaction), over the span of a lifetime, or over a specific historical trajectory. The papers collected together here explore the materiality of such plural and changing social identities through a series of international and archaeological case studies. They explore the potential for studies of material culture (including the materiality of the body) to expand our understandings of this complex, temporally situated, and socially nuanced process. The contributions illuminate howthe various axes of race, ethnicity, sexuality, age, class, gender, personhood, health, and/or religion contribute to both material expressions of social affiliations, and transient experiences of identity. This volume includes contributions from a wide range of temporal and geographical contexts. Several key issues in the study of identities can be traced through these collected studies. © 2005 Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, New York.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationtThe Archaeology of Plural and Changing Identities: Beyond Identification|The Archaeo. of Plural and Changing Identities: Beyond Identif.
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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