Submit a Manuscript to the Journal
For a Special Issue on
An Archaeology of Inequality
31 July 2022
An Archaeology of Inequality
In a modern era in which tackling and reducing global inequality is one of the United Nations’ top Sustainable Development Goals, this volume invites a return to considering how archaeology can provide evidence for social inequity in the past, as well as the drivers, and strategies for adaption, resilience and resistance of dominant structures. While central authority shapes frameworks of power, the periphery can operate with varying levels of overt or even hidden dissent. In these contexts, the material world, in all its forms, can be mobilised, not just in the construction of power, but also in signalling acceptance or rejection of existing and imposed structures.
Since the 1990s research on the archaeology of inequality and equality, has resulted in seminal contributions investigating how social change might be contingent on conflict and power struggles and how equality may be a powerful force in shaping social relations. Some 30 years on, we have also become more conscious of the power dynamics that shape our own research questions and their relationship to current social inequalities. New scientific techniques can complement our understanding of someone’s identity, wealth and status with information on their life course. We can trace evidence of cosmopolitanism and localism, inequities in access to material goods and food, the hardship of daily existence and care and trauma at the hands of others. Beyond individuals, analysis of common variables such as household size has facilitated cross-cultural statistical analysis of inequality at regional, and even continental, scales. Linked to patterns of resource exploitation and surplus production, this may identify relationships between the exploitation of the environment, social complexity and sustainability.
This volume responds by inviting contributions that explore the archaeology and material culture of inequality from prehistory to the present in global perspective. How can we explore the archaeological record for robust indications of inequality? How was inequality generated and maintained, and what kind of relationships did it produce? How does archaeology reify and legitimise inequalities through the curation, study and interpretation of archaeological data and collections. How is archaeology challenging, deconstructing and actively addressing contemporary inequalities?
Submissions are especially welcome that examine evidence for the lives of socially excluded or disadvantaged and people and places deemed peripheral or marginal to centres of power. We are also particularly interested in contributions centred on differential experiences in terms of access and resources, the ways in which archaeology and material culture can document imbalances in social structure and power and case studies of adaption, resilience, innovation and resistance.
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