Indexical and Social Boundary Communication

  • Richard E. Blanton
Part of the Interdisciplinary Contributions to Archaeology book series (IDCA)


In the first chapter, I discussed two theories of variation pertaining tothe external decoration of the house. The first, termed indexical communication, relates to how the residents of households use decorative elaboration to communicate about wealth status to other households. The other, which I termed social boundary communication, stems from the argument that members of strongly integrated social entities will demarcate boundaries between themselves and other social entities using material communication in the form of decorative elaboration. This hypothesis was proposed by Hodder (1982: 185–191), based on comments in Douglas (1970; cf. Wobst 1977). Social boundary communication might include house facade decoration and other aspects of house decoration in the context of strongly integrated households, as is hinted at by Waterson (1990: 139) in her discussion of “house societies” in Southeast Asia (following the suggestions of Lévi-Strauss 1982: Chapter 13; cf. Marshall 1989: 20). Although it is not necessarily the case that indexical and social boundary communication represent antithetical theories of external decoration, I evaluate them comparatively below.


Community Integration External Communication Social Boundary Indexical Communication External Orientation 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard E. Blanton
    • 1
  1. 1.Purdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

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