Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology

2014 Edition
| Editors: Claire Smith

Agency in Archaeological Theory

  • Marcia-Anne DobresEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-0465-2_252

Introduction

Agency is an explicitly humanistic perspective for understanding ancient people and social reproduction. It emphasizes the reciprocal relationship between people’s conscious and unintended actions and their social, ideological, and material conditions. Agency is an attempt to bridge three long-standing paradigmatic divides: between theories focused on egocentric individuals “in” society, those concerned with the deterministic nature of normative culture, and theories emphasizing the influence of external (material) conditions on both individuals and society.

After more than three decades of experimentation and critical reflection, there is still little consensus across paradigmatic boundaries as to precisely what agency is (Dobres & Robb 2000, for attempts at a comprehensive definition, see Johnson 1989; Bell 1992; Pauketat 2001; Dornan 2002). Nonetheless, as a conceptual framework and an analytic tool, the utility of agency for making sense of the past is undisputed. And...

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References

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Further Reading

  1. Flannery, K. V. 1999. Process and agency in early state formation. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 9:3-21.Google Scholar
  2. Gardner, A. (ed.) 2004. Agency uncovered: archaeological perspectives on social agency, power and being human. London: University College London Press.Google Scholar
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  5. Hoskins, J. 2006. Agency, biography and objects, in C. Tilley, W. Keane, S. Küchler & M. Rowlands (ed.) Handbook of material culture: 74-84. London: Sage.Google Scholar
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  7. Silliman, S. 2001. Agency, practical politics and the archaeology of culture contact. Journal of Social Archaeology 1(2):190-209.Google Scholar
  8. Smith, A. T. 2001. The limitations of doxa: agency and subjectivity from an archaeological point of view. Journal of Social Archaeology 1:155-71.Google Scholar
  9. Varien, M. D. & J. M. Potter. (ed.) 2008. The social construction of communities: agency, structure, and identity in the prehispanic southwest. Lanham (MD): AltaMira.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of MaineOronoUSA