Archaeologists: this has been confusing me forever. Can someone explain the difference between processual and post processual archaeology?
Alright, now, not everyone all at once…
lemme take a crack.
[caveat: my first archaeology prof was ian hodder, so yeah, i’ve been biased since the beginning, haha, academic crush forever.]
1. Behavior vs. Meaning
- processualists: it’s all about behavior, dawg, screw ‘meaning’. why? cuz symbolic structures are too opaque and near-impossible to recover without making assumptions, man. how can you know? HOW CAN YOU KNOW? dat’s right, you can’t. unless…
hey, butt-face, you’re always going to be making assumptions about meaning, even when trying to reconstruct “facts”. interpretation is necessary, so we should learn to do it rigorously. how? critical theory, man, that’s some good shit right there.
2. The Case of the Individual
- processualists: ugh, individuals. they don’t matter in archaeology, except as representatives of larger processes and patterns. subjective motivations? shoot, no1curr. we gotta focus more on what can be objectively known, rather than the hyper-variable and unknowable thoughts of individual minds.
ignoring the individual is overly deterministic, not to mention kind of douchey; culture is not a pre-written program for humans to follow. agency and meaning are necessary to understanding how a society works (hey dawg i herd u like bourdieu, so i’mma put some habitus in yo habitus, so you can have agency wit yo agency), and therefore, the notion of the individual is actually central to archaeological interpretation.
3. But who will think of
the children science?
gotDAMN, all this social theory keeps harshing my buzz. and stop killing objectivity, i like my charts.
- post-processualists: dude, objectivity was never a real thing that humans could experience. but you can still has science. maybe you should reread the criticism.
and guess what, some post-processualists use science, too. yeah, we’re like all up in those stable isotopes and shit. just acknowledge that science is a method that you’re embracing, but that it doesn’t automatically cancel out other epistemologies like indigenous knowledge, yo.
4. How it looks from the outside.
In conclusion, it’s still a bit of a mess. Especially with the whole snafu last year with the word “science” and the AAA mission statement. That did a lot to polarize the community, and make the radicals feel justified in keeping to their sides. But then we have things like this and this, which are making steps toward mixing social theory and science. Note that they’re both about bioarch, which is why I think archaeology of the body is what’s gonna keep our discipline from stagnating (blatant bioarch bias, unfounded speculation, lol).