Friday, December 5, 2008

The Development of Social Science Theory, Archaeology, and Indigenous Peoples

The social sciences have experienced a number of rapid and expansive theoretical developments over the course of the last hundred years. From fighting for their existence as an intellectual endeavor within academia and the university during the 19th century, to experiencing a series of popular and wide scale adoptions with such theoretical epistemologies as positivism and behaviorism, the social sciences are currently at an epistemological crossroads. In the aftermath of such powerful critiques as deconstructionism, postmodernism, postcolonialism, and the Frankfurt School’s singular attack on positivism and the Vienna School, the social sciences are struggling to find their epistemological footing. This is particularly true within the field of anthropology, including its daughter discipline of archaeology, for not only has the theoretical foundations of the discipline been called into question, but the field’s subject matter – its source of data and existence – has also been brought to bear. In an effort to reestablish some form of theoretical footing, the social sciences have begun to open their epistemological doors to cultures and ways of knowing historically allowed to only represent data. In this process, indigenous peoples and their epistemology have played a key role.

Over the past two decades a significant amount of academic energy has been invested in professing the urgent need and essentialness for developing what some have called an indigenous archaeology. Books, essays, and academic conferences have discussed, defined, and designed a multiplicity of paths towards this goal. Very little effort has been expanded, however, in seriously examining the intellectual viability or the social and cultural desirability of this project. In a recent paper entitled Aboriginalism and the Problems of Indigenous Archaeology Robert McGhee attempts to examine this theoretical endeavor within the field of archaeology.

Read more about Aboriginalism, indigenous archaeology, and the development of social science theory here.

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