Jones, Sian. The Archaeology of Ethnicity: Constructing Identities in the Past
and Present. New York: Routlege, 1997.
(notes only - no review)
Ethnic archaeology has roots in Nazi settlement theory. It was wiped out by processualism and has been revived (in quite another form) by the heterogenous post-processualists and others. It is difficult to eschew the funds and vision which come from nationalist impulses - but they can and do create significant skews, as well as plundering and erasure. But nationalist issues can not be ignored. Respect (literally, looking back) and nationalism together make us ask "who gets that skeleton and why?" And in so determining, multiple identities sometimes need to be single. Is it possible to do only "value-free" science? Are there principles of interpretation that are incorruptible? (Apparently not.) Shanks and Tilley are cited as two authors who have come in for a fair bit of praise or controversy as regards the value question. Jones argues that there is no ethnicity, only a dynamically and historically contingent ethnic identity.
Gustaf Kossian and Vere Gordon Childe argued that groups create artifacts specific to their own culture. There are common tools, settlement patterns, artifacts. Formal key elements are selected as identifiers. Ethnic questions usually have an agenda attached: Europeans, for example wanted antiquity and continuity at a particular site (to bolster questions of primacy, ownership, glory ) North Americans were not at first concerned with these issues but later developed classification schemes and timelines. (Note: but theories of primacy and technological judgment were still in effect: NAs were looking for someone other than American Indians to have built the mounds.) The culture-history paradigm was not so much ended as ignored to death by processualism. Questions for processualists were not what and when, but how and why. But how does one first define the culture in question? Can such a definition be generated "pre-theory?" Jones offers a case study in Iron Age A, B and C and Romanization in Britain. Does this timeline form the right picture? Stylistics and power together equal culture, in most readings. But, says Jones, a detailed analysis is often skipped in favor of a known narrative.
Pre-Enlightenment, the progress of the human race had a particular narrative. (NB and during, too! Giambattista Vico's New Science, for example). Nineteenth century science writers tried to define race linguistically or anatomically. Questions around mono- or poly-genism shaded into justification for imperialist policies. Cultures were grouped according to their relative state of advancement (measured against European current culture). The end of the nineteenth century saw the development ethnology - the idea of culture as groups possessing different lifeways, distinct from race was new. Arguments on how cultures are formed persisted, and as above, the race question touches slavery, nationalism, colonial exploitation and concepts of Western philanthropy. German- American Franz Boas argued that cultural anthropology should be approached as a question of distinct groups and not as a question of development. The task of the anthropologist was "to delineate cultural patterns and, beyond that, to compare and classify types of patterns." (47) (Other names of significance are British: Fox-Lane Pitt-Rivers, Elliot-Smith, Perry.) In British circles, anti-historical Durkheimian structural-functionalist theories of society proposed that tribal society should be the unit of consideration. Concepts of isolation, kinship, stability, order, equilibrium went with that unit. But race and culture were separated - much influenced by the terrible lessons of WWII.
Ethnicity became a significant taxonomic category in the 60s and 70s. As formal colonialism was ending, and institutionalized racism was being challenged, so, too, was the rigidity of tribes and cultures as a classificatory scheme. Tribe became "ethnic group." But as a concept, it was linked to and surrounded by politics. Ethnicity once again demonstrates the dialectic between academic classification and real-world organization - and the diversity of humans. "The emergence of the concept of ethnicity as a major taxonomic category in the classification of peoples was partly stimulated by a theoretical shift away from the fixed, reified categories of 'race,' 'culture,' 'society,' and 'tribe' towards a processual analysis of ethnicity as a form of social interaction." (54-55)
There are two problematic concepts in the new definition of ethnicity. First, should emic or etic views receive priority? Second, how specific should ethnicity be? If the category 'ethnic' is too open, it will cease to be analytically useful: self-identified groups could include gender, class and caste groups. Self-identification is relevant to definitions of ethnicity, as are the number of 'identifying traits." Barth's 1969 Ethnic Groups and Boundaries looked at self-identification as an issue, in contrast to traditional culture and historical boundaries. Still kept in the mix were ideas about territory, language, race, religions, lifeways. Although socio-economics should be kept out, the other elements of the definition have been much debated. Jones says the theoretical framework is lacking, but the general conceptualization of ethnicity is now a self-defining system, with "an emphasis on the fluid and situational nature of both group boundaries and individual identification." (64)
Two more theories of ethnicity - first, a concept called the primordial imperative, in which the givens are blood, religion, language, practice. This concept suggests that there is an ineffable and coersive cohesiveness to ethnic identity (NB this is why people go off the deep end!). It can, as a concept, describe or explain action. (The Indian felt the call of 10,000 years on the plains - he had to fulfill his destiny - and so he found and killed the buffalo. Etc.) People want and need to belong to a group of intermediate size and so create stories of belonging and identity. But, as regards global politics, 'primordial tribalism' is seen as bad, something to be repressed by liberal democracy - but some biologists would say that it is difficult to eradicate because it is "the blueprint for animal sociality." (NB What? Human primordial tribalism seems rather different. Do animals engage in suicide bombing? Identity and martyrdom go hand-in-hand. Biologically speaking, such actions might be called extreme maladaption.) Problems with this definition: it is Romantic (capital R), involuntary, and not explanatory. It does not explain (indeed, none of these theories do) why do people hate so long and well. It is difficult to analyze the base unit of an ethnic group so defined.
Ethnicity now is understood as "a dynamic and situational form of group identity embedded in the organization of social behaviour and also in the institutional fabric of society." (72) Ethnicity is the foundation of embracing social systems. There is a persistence of boundaries because there is a persistence of systems and social niches. Identity is used as a tool for personal advantage. But if ethnicity is all about "interest groups," then why do boundaries which do not serve interest exist? People aren't always rational about their interests, perhaps, and power and politics are not the only factors involved. Psychology and culture are overlooked. How groups form is still unanswered.
Multidimensional ethnicity is a "contextual analytical framework" for culturally ascribed identity groups. Common descent (religion, language, history and race) is a process which includes an awareness of difference and a reproduction of differenced (real or assumed) and not group characteristics. The key here is in describing process and not constituting factors. Such a definition permits the researcher to explore and not defend the borders of a group? How to cross the emic/etic barrier? Jones discusses the idea of Bourdrieu's habitus, which argues for (unconscious) units of functioning that structure all we do. They are structuring structures. (NB to my mind, a kind of theoretical slight-of-hand. But interesting.) Habitus allows for interaction between lived experience and subconscious convictions. You can be primordial and instrumental. When one understands that there are Others, there can be orthodoxy and heterodoxy. Such happens when two cultures meet. Jones says that habitus is highly variable because groups are formed by pressure as well as likeness. So when did ethnic groups begin? In the new globalism? During colonialism? At the end of the Bronze Age? In modern industrial societies, ethnic groups might be discrete, quasi-natural multicultural interest groups.
Jones states that there are "certain basic processes in creating ethnicity across socio-historical contexts which can be used as a framework to compare" (103) I could not find a clear statement of those processes in this book. In that sense, the book was absorbing but rather frustrating.
Are archaeological cultures the equivalent of ethnic groups? Maybe not, says
Jones. It is difficult to say why variation occurs, or which member(s) of a
diverse group produced a particular style. Is distribution a good classification
scheme? Jones suggests that they cannot be exhaustive, and if they are reductively
neat, they are suspect. Tradition, interaction and adaptive areas can be sources
of assemblage variety. Likewise, the different functional characteristics of
artifacts. (as in Binford's technomic, sociotechnic and ideotechnic categories).
Style and function can be considered together as an ethnic taxonomy. Style can
be deliberate and aggressive rather than a passive transmission and copy of
previous work. Difference does not have to mean geographic distance; instead,
as style, difference may actually mean contact between groups - sparked by geographic proximity and the need for differentiation. Material culture and style occupy the same ontological space as habitus. They structure as they are structured. In sum, style can be isochrestic but it can also be purposive. If a group is ethnically the same, then material culture will map closely to itself. If a group is not ethnically the same, material culture will differ. But this relationship is fleeting. Style may be arbitrary across cultures but it is not random within a particular socio-historical context.
Ethnic identification is the objectification of cultural practices (otherwise subliminal)/ Jones's model include checking what are the basic processes? What gets reproduced, what gets changed, and what are the units of habits? The researcher must identify locales (farm, city, town ) and identify public, private, ritual or secular uses of a space. He or she may date and use stratigraphy, not equate it with style. The researcher must expect a mess which should nevertheless be assembled and published. (NB Jones seems OK to me. But this set of "no-rules" sounds very much like it would be open to endless infighting about the right way to assemble. In more sinister versions, it could lead to "figure out the hidden rules, and assemble as I would assemble," or you'll be out of the graduate program).
In conclusion, neither culture nor ethnicity is integrated, bounded or continuous.
Ethnicity should not be used to settle debates. Arifact types, as generated
by ethnicities, happen now, or once.