221-240 of 259 Results

Article

Scales of Observation  

Dominique Desjeux

One of the particularities of applied anthropology is working on demand, and performing research on demand requires changing fields constantly. This diversity of fields has led to an awareness in applied anthropology that the focal point of observation varies from study to study, and that depending on the particular scope or decoupage, researchers do not see the same thing. This scales-of-observation method has four empirical principles: (a) What one observes at one scale vanishes at another scale. (b) The causes explaining actors’ behavior vary based on the scale of observation; they can stem from situational effects or meaning effects, or suggest statistical correlation. (c) Knowledge acquired at one scale is complementary and cumulative with that of other scales of observation. However, they cannot be fused into a single, global description. Indeed, although reality is continuous, observation between the “macro” and the “micro” is discontinuous. Discontinuity stems from the importance of the situational effects in anthropology and organizational sociology. These two approaches are most often centered on the interactions among actors operating under situational constraints. All generalizations are thus limited to scales pertaining to the same type of causality. (d) Part of the conflict among schools, disciplines, or professions regarding explanations for human behavior and changes within a community, an organization, a society, or an individual can most often be explained by different choices in the scale of observation. The scales-of-observation method is a mobile tool of knowledge founded on the anthropological practice of the cultural detour, in this case scientific cultures. It is an inductive epistemological theory on the variability of the explanatory causes of human behavior and falls under methodological relativism. Consequently, the scales-of-observation method is also a tool of negotiation among actors who are involved collectively in a project of social change, but with contradictory interests or objectives.

Article

Shell Middens and Coastal Prehistory  

John Parkington and Ruan Brand

Shell middens, the residues of shellfish gathering, consumption, and disposal in the past, have attracted the attention of archaeologists for more than one hundred and fifty years. Although there has been a tendency to view these sites as simply waste heaps, it is increasingly clear that this is usually not the case and that, sometimes, spatially meaningful arrangements of domestic debris of all kinds (fireplaces, artifacts, cooking and sleeping areas) are recognizable if excavations are sensitive enough. Some issues are as relevant and as intransigent as they have been from the beginning: Are they really food waste or could they be natural shell accumulations? Were people living at these sites or are they simply large piles of waste resulting from shell processing? In what ways and how fast did the middens accumulate? How are shell middens related to other archaeological sites inland, contemporary but without shell food waste? Because shell middens are found on all continents except Antarctica and throughout the Holocene time period (the last twelve thousand years), the literature on their excavation and interpretation is enormous and illustrates that archaeologists worldwide engage similarly with counting, measuring, weighing the shellfish, and associated faunal and artifactual remains from these sites. Often, the research involves developing proxies for the kinds of invisible but interesting aspects of the lives of the shellfish gatherers, such as: How many people lived here? How long did people stay at this site? Why did they come when they did and leave when they did? Where else did people live? While Holocene shell middens are ubiquitous, it is also clear that Pleistocene shell middens, while fairly widespread, are found more commonly in coastal areas where early modern humans have dispersed early in their migrations across the globe. It is likely that these traces, in Africa, in Europe, in island South-East Asia and Australia, and along the shores of western North America mark the routes whereby our earliest modern human ancestors peopled the world.

Article

The Shell Midden Sites of Senegambia  

Alioune Dème and Moustapha Sall

There are hundreds of shell midden sites along the Senegambian coastline. The shell middens were first formed during an eustatic event known as the Nouakchottien marine transgression (6,800–4,000 bp). During that marine transgression, the sea shoreline was pushed back hundreds of miles in the interior. This engendered the flourishing of malacological fauna and several fish species. As a result of this, several natural shell midden were formed. From the Late Stone Age to the 2nd millennium ce, populations exploited the aquatic fauna, which resulted in the formation of anthropogenic shell middens. The littoral where these shell middens are found is divided into three archaeological culture areas. Archaeological excavations at some of those sites, such as Khant and Dioron Boumak, have shed light on the nature of the material culture, subsistence activities, and the cultural history in these areas. Research at Soukouta has added new data on iron technology to understanding of the shell middens culture. These findings have also called into question the division of Senegambian prehistory into four distinct cultural areas known as aires culturelles.

Article

Shifting Sedentism in West Africa  

Sirio Canós-Donnay

Studies of past mobility in West Africa and beyond have traditionally seen sedentism and mobility as binary opposites, with sedentism as the stable option and mobility as an exception that needs to be explained. Additionally, archaeologists have tended to gravitate toward deeply stratified sites, while flat sites were often neglected, presumed to be ephemeral and of little interest. Since the beginning of the 21st century, however, archaeologists across West Africa have been increasingly documenting a phenomenon that deeply challenges those assumptions: that of populations that are sedentary but whose settlements regularly “shift” or move short distances but keep the name, institutions, and networks of the community intact. Known as “shifting sedentism,” this pattern opens new theoretical and methodological possibilities as it demonstrates that lack of stratification does not necessary entail ephemeral occupations, nor insecurity or lack of social complexity. In fact, over the past few decades, shifting sedentism patterns have been documented archaeologically, historically, and ethnographically in a wide range of societies, from stateless groups to hierarchical empires, from cattle-herders to agriculturalists, and in the most diverse sociopolitical, cultural, and economic settings. Thanks to all these studies, it is now clear that shifting sedentism has been present in societies across West Africa, from Senegal to Cameroon, for centuries, but its importance is only now beginning to be understood.

Article

Sibudan  

Manuel Will

The Sibudan is a technocomplex within the cultural stratigraphy of the southern African Middle Stone Age (MSA), first formulated in 2012. The term was introduced as a working concept to organize the spatio-temporal variability in material culture among the archaeological record following the Howiesons Poort during Marine Isotope Stage 3 (MIS 3; ~59–24 ka). In contrast to the more widely used name “post-Howiesons Poort” (“post-HP”)—an umbrella term resting primarily upon temporal aspects—the Sibudan possesses a formal definition based on characteristic elements of its lithic technology. The site of Sibudu, located in the eastern part of southern Africa (KwaZulu-Natal), serves as type locality since it has yielded a rich and high-resolution record of modern human occupations during MIS 3. The Sibudan type sequence at Sibudu, dated to ~58 ka and encompassing twenty-three layers, features both characteristic traits and diachronic variability. The consistent techno-typological elements include predominantly local raw material procurement, concomitant use of multiple core reduction methods (Levallois, discoid, platform, and bipolar), manufacture of flake and blade assemblages, as well as soft stone hammer percussion for blades. Temporal variability exists in the proportions and morphologies of tools and unifacial points in particular—including Tongati, Ndwedwe, and asymmetric convergent tools—the presence of bifacial points, as well as the frequency of blank types and different core reduction methods. Comparative studies since 2014 suggest a spatio-temporal extension of the Sibudan in the eastern part of southern Africa during early MIS 3 (~58–50 ka), with marked differences to assemblages of similar ages along the southern coast and Western Cape. The concept is thus not a direct substitute or congruent with the “post-HP” and “Sibudu technocomplex.” On a more interpretive level, the Sibudan has featured in discussions on the trajectory of cultural evolution among early modern humans, the scale and mechanisms of behavioral change during the MSA, and theoretical debate on the relevance of technocomplexes.

Article

Sign Languages  

Erika Hoffmann-Dilloway and Kristin Snoddon

Ethnographic studies of sign languages illuminate and complicate the ways in which the category of sign language is differentiated from other categories, including the categories of language and non-language, different types of sign languages, and signed versus spoken languages. These studies also highlight how sign language ideologies emerge in particular contexts, methods, and interpretations of data. An ethics of nonnormative communication is both an object and a mode of inquiry in anthropological and ethnographic studies of sign languages. Rather than pursuing categorical distinctions between codes and modalities, ethnographic studies show that such distinctions hinge on the situated interpretations that people make based on their life experiences, their sensory orientations, and the ideological frameworks that mediate their assessments.

Article

Social Media  

Kendra Calhoun

Foundational linguistic anthropological theories of community, identity, and multimodality, among other topics, offer invaluable insights into communicative practices on social media. Phenomena on social media also require researchers to continually adapt and update these theories—which were first conceptualized before social media became integral to everyday life—to account for the unique communicative possibilities afforded by constantly evolving digital technology. Like anthropological studies in in-person contexts, anthropological studies of language and culture online vary in scope, theoretical framing, and methodological approach depending on their central topics of inquiry. Social media can be studied within a primarily in-person ethnographic project as one of many sites of communication for members of a community in addition to (or overlapping with) contexts such as work, school, and the home. Social media can also be studied as primary sites of analysis through digital ethnographic approaches, typically focused on the communication patterns within a network or community of social media users on a single platform. Linguistic anthropological perspectives on social media are necessarily interdisciplinary, informed by scholarship in related fields including sociolinguistics, cultural anthropology, communication studies, and media studies. To this interdisciplinary understanding linguistic anthropology contributes a unique perspective attuned to the details of linguistic structure and the ways language and culture are mutually constitutive.

Article

Social Media Relationships  

Umoloyouvwe Ejiro Onomake

Ethnography has been used to research various people and topics online, primarily using netnography and digital ethnography. Researchers and businesses employ digital ethnographic methods to access an assortment of social media platforms in order to learn about social media users. Researchers seek to understand relationships between social media users and organizations from both academic and practitioner perspectives. These organizations run the gamut from for-profit businesses, to nonprofits, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and government agencies. The specific focus here is on social media research as it relates to businesses. Organizations make use of social media in a variety of ways, but chiefly to market to clients and to gather information on followers; the latter of which, in turn, helps them understand their target markets. While this social media data is both quantitative and qualitative in nature, the emphasis here centers on qualitative data, particularly the ways businesses interact with social media users. While some firms mainly use older forms of one-way marketing that solely focus on disseminating information, other firms increasingly seek ways to interact with customers and co-create products with clients. Additionally, social media users are creating their own communities, formed due to a shared interest in a brand. Companies strive to learn more about their customers through these groups. Influencers also play a role in the relationship between organizations and social media users by linking their own followerships to products and brands. In turn, influencers develop their own relationships with organizations through sponsorships, thus becoming brands themselves. Influencers risk losing their followerships when followers perceive them as no longer accessible or authentic. This change in perception can occur for a variety of reasons, including when followers believe that an influencer has prioritized brand alignment over building connections with followers. Due to multiple relationships with different brands and their followers, influencers must negotiate the ambiguity and evolving nature of their role. As social media and digital spaces develop, so must the tools used by anthropologists. Anthropologists should remain open to incorporating hallmarks of ethnographic research such as fieldnotes, participant observation, and focus groups in new ways and alongside tools from other disciplines, including market and UX (user experience) research. The divide between practitioners and academics is blurring. Anthropologists can solve client issues while contributing their voices to larger anthropological and societal discussions.

Article

Southern Africa’s Later Stone Age and Hunter-Gatherer Ethnography  

Tim Forssman

Reviews of southern Africa’s Later Stone Age (LSA) have seen many different iterations. Generally, however, they summarize the technocomplex from its earliest industry until it ceases to be recognizable in the archaeological record, summarizing the variety of research topics, questions, and approaches. Binding much of this together, despite the diaspora of studies, is the use of ethnography to understand past hunter-gatherer lifeways. This resource has guided interpretations of the past and helped design research approaches since the 1970s. And yet, from as early as the 1980s, archaeologists as well as anthropologists have debated the influence ethnography plays in understanding the past. Nonetheless, without it, significantly less would be written of hunter-gatherer prehistory in southern Africa, which includes belief systems, settlement structures, mobility patterns, subsistence habits, and social relations. Using ethnography as a vehicle, it is possible to navigate the LSA pathways created by scholars and examine the aforementioned contributions this knowledge system has made to interpretations of the past. From this vantage, envisioning a future for ethnography within the field is possible. This should involve expanding the ethnographies archaeologists use, moving beyond the Kalahari Desert, creating a diverse group of LSA researchers, and decolonizing the discipline.

Article

A Southern African Perspective on the Contribution of Charcoal Analyses to Archaeology  

Joseph Chikumbirike and Marion K. Bamford

Southern Africa has a long and rich archaeological record, ranging from the Oldowan lithics in the Sterkfontein valley and Wonderwerk Cave (about 2 Ma) to Iron Age smelting (less than one thousand years ago) in Zimbabwe. A brief overview of charcoal analyses indicates applications in such areas as dating, vegetation and climate reconstructions, fuel use, medicinal use, and the interpretation of human behavior. Some of the research done in the 20th century mainly focused on charcoal for the purpose of dating, but this has diversified in the 21st century to include other applications. The focus is on South African sites, but research from Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe is included. Southern Africa has a very diverse woody component with more than fifteen hundred species from a flora of more than twenty-five thousand species so the establishment of regional modern reference collections of charcoalified woods has been instrumental in improving identifications of the archaeological taxa. Early Middle Stone Age charcoal records show that a diversity of woody species was burned. By Middle Stone Age times, records show the selection of woods for fuel, tinder, and medicinal use as well as cooking of starchy rhizomes. Late Stone Age and Iron Age records, in addition, show the use of woods for smelting and intense fires.

Article

Southern African Stone Age  

Nuno Bicho

The Southern African Stone Age covers the longest period in human history, that is, the last three million years of human evolution and adaptation in a region south of the 18th parallel south. The region includes the countries of Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe, with a northern border marked by the Kunene River between Angola and Namibia, the Cuando River on the borders of Angola, Namibia, and Botswana, and the Zambezi River. It is divided into three main phases, known as Early, Middle, and Later Stone Age. The Early Stone Age had its beginning about three million years ago with the development of Australopithecus, found in South Africa in the region called the Cradle of Humankind. The earliest stone tools in the region were discovered in the cave of Sterkfontein and are dated to around two million years ago. These first stone tools, which include choppers, polyhedrons, and subspheroids, among other artifacts, are part of an industrial complex known as the Oldowan, which lasted for a few hundred thousand of years. It was followed by the Acheulean, known by its unique large cutting tools, the handaxes, cleavers, and picks, starting about 1.8 million years ago. During this period, species such as Homo habilis and Homo erectus/ergaster walked over southern Africa. The Middle Stone Age, starting about three hundred thousand years ago, seems to be directly associated with the emergence of a new species, Homo sapiens. This phase shows a wide cultural diversity in the region, and in fact across the whole African continent, both in time and space. This is a phase drastically marked by technological and cultural innovations, such as the use of bow and arrow, hafting, bone tools, lithic heat treatment, use of pigments, production of body ornaments such as beads, art in the form of engravings, and, finally, the systematic inclusion of shellfish and plants in the human diet. These innovations, however, were not used all in the same location. This congregation of techniques and innovations took place only during the next phase, the Later Stone Age, which started around thirty-five thousand years ago. It is likely the result of an important demographic change that occurred as a response to climatic oscillations that took place at the world level. Like the Middle Stone Age, the Later Stone Age saw an incredible range of cultural diversity in the large region of southern Africa. Traditionally, it was believed that the main differences between the Middle and Later Stone Ages were based on a dichotomy where, on one side, points and flake industries resulting from prepared cores such as Levallois were present, and on the other, simple cores producing microlithic assemblages, sometimes geometric, together with art, and beads and organic tools were present. Today, however, that simplistic contrast is known to be wrong, and the differences in cultural complexity are more a matter of concentration than innovation. The Later Stone Age hunter-gatherers were finally slowly replaced by farmers and herders and later by Iron Age populations, between twenty-five hundred years ago and the recent historical present.

Article

Squatter Housing  

Alan Smart

Squatting is one of the most important forms of housing for the world’s poor, accommodating perhaps a billion people, with the numbers continuing to grow. Squatters occupy vacant land or buildings without the consent of the owner. Squatting in existing buildings is more common in the Global North, particularly in Europe, and tends to be more political, often explicitly anticapitalist, than squatting on vacant land, which accounts for the vast majority of squatters, particularly in the Global South. Urban squatter housing needs to be seen as valuable housing rather than just as a social problem. Housing generally has exchange value, a price on housing markets, as well as use value, the utility of it for those who live in it. Early research dealt primarily with use value because of the emphasis on self-building and collectively organized invasions of land. Demand for scarce stocks of affordable housing leads to market prices despite governmental denial of the possibility of ownership of illegal dwellings. Squatter housing often meets the needs of poor people more effectively than public housing, and policy initiatives around the world are attempting to enhance the utility of informally built and regulated housing while mitigating the environmental problems that they can cause. Formalizing informal housing is a key but controversial policy. Research has revealed that informal tenure security is considered adequate by residents, resulting in lower than expected demand for squatter titling. Formalization may also lead to gentrification and thus diminishes the abilities of informal housing to provide affordable accommodation.

Article

The Stone Age of the Middle Nile Valley  

Elena A.A. Garcea

The stretch of the Nile River upstream from the First Cataract corresponds to the Middle Nile and extends from southern Egypt to the confluence of the White Nile and the Blue Nile in central Sudan. Its water basin is wider than that of the Lower Nile Valley and includes considerable tributaries and groundwater outlets springing in oases, wells, or boreholes, which could support human populations in otherwise uninhabitable arid and semi-arid lands. The Middle Nile Valley and the adjacent western and eastern deserts feature a range of significant sites belonging to the Early Stone Age (ESA), the Middle Stone Age (MSA), and the Later Stone Age (LSA). The earliest hominin occupation goes back to the Oldowan. Sites dating to this period are not numerous but are dispersed in different areas and suggest that some may have been lost due to taphonomic agents. Acheulean techno-complexes attest to a more consistent human presence in northern Sudan, western Sudan, and eastern Sudan. Research along the Red Sea coast and inland has provided strong evidence on green corridors for hominin dispersals connecting East Africa to the eastern desert. A variety of MSA techno-complexes appear in different territories. The most frequent industries have been assigned to the Sangoan, Lupemban, Nubian Complex, Aterian, and Khormusan. Early MSA Sangoan and Lupemban sites concentrate in the main Nile and White Nile areas, whereas Middle MSA Nubian Complex sites also appear in the eastern desert. Almost unknown in the Egyptian Nile Valley, the Aterian is well attested to in the Middle Nile Valley, as well as in the western desert. Finally, the Late MSA Khormusan and the LSA are mostly restricted to northern Sudan, with the exception of an LSA evidence in eastern Sudan, at Khashm el-Girba. The renowned LSA cemetery at Jebel Sahaba with signs of interpersonal violence is located in northern Sudan. Thanks to their favorable intermediary position, the Middle Nile Valley and the adjacent western and eastern areas likely contributed to both the northern and the southern routes of out-of-Africa hominin dispersals. The northern route that led East African hominins into Southwest Asia and onward almost inevitably traversed Sudan. At the same time, Sudanese technological traditions also appear across the Red Sea, in the Arabian Peninsula and seemingly spread via the southern route.

Article

Surrogacy as Labor  

Anindita Majumdar

Surrogacy as labor is an important theoretical idea within anthropology. Emerging from ethnographic and feminist engagement, surrogacy or the practice of a woman gestating an artificially or naturally conceived fetus in her uterus for an infertile or childless couple, with the promise of compensation or a gesture of “gift-giving,” has been controversial. The idea of motherhood as a form of labor is especially under scrutiny within the practice of surrogacy as it becomes technologically supported through in-vitro fertilization and other forms of assisted reproductive technologies (ART) and begins to be global. Against the universally socially exalted positioning of motherhood, the problematic practice of surrogacy defies social conventions. Thus, surrogacy as labor is a difficult proposition socially and morally, bringing forth questions regarding “body work” and intimate labor—all of which are represented within the practice of surrogacy. As a field of enquiry, surrogacy as labor includes theoretical and ethnographic engagements regarding the rise of transnational surrogacy and the “hiring” of women from the Global South by couples from the Global North, and what this has meant for pregnancy, birthing, and ART. Most importantly, labor and motherhood are enmeshed in this complicated narrative of family-making that involves the intermixture of race, culture, and commerce in an uneasy relationship. In thinking through the understanding of surrogacy as labor, it is important to trace its linkages with kinship, family, commerce, and medicine. Thus, surrogacy as labor is analyzed within the following themes: as linked to other forms of precarious labor that are also enmeshed in the “hostile worlds” of money and intimacy (such as sex work and domestic labor); as a process of kin-making; and as the most legislated form of work, globally.

Article

Sustainable Development  

Eric Hirsch

Sustainable development was famously defined in the 1987 Brundtland Report as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” In the decades that followed, anthropologists have made clear that the term requires a more specific redefinition within its context of late capitalism. For anthropologists, sustainable development evokes the effort of extending capitalist discipline while remaining conscious of economic or environmental constraints. Yet they have also found that sustainable development discourses frequently pitch certain forms of steady, careful capitalist extension as potentially limitless. Anthropologists have broadly found “sustainable” to be used by development workers and policy experts most widely in reference to economic rather than environmental constraints. Sustainable development thus presents as an environmentalist concept but is regularly used to lubricate extraction and energy-intensive growth in the name of a sustained capitalism. The intensifying impacts of climate change demonstrate the stakes of this choice. Anthropological interruptions and interrogations of the sustainable development concept within the unfolding logic of late capitalism range from the intimate and local realm of economic lives, to the political ecology of resource extraction, to the emerging ethnography of climate change. Anthropologists investigate sustainable development at these three scales. Indeed, scale is an effective analytic for understanding its spatial and temporal effects in and on the world. Anthropologists approach sustainable development up close as it has been utilized as a short-term disciplinary instrument of transforming people identified as poor into entrepreneurs. They can zoom out to see large extractive industries as, themselves, subjects and drivers of a larger-scale, longer-term framework of sustainable development. They also zoom out even further, intervening in emergent responses to climate change, a problem of utmost urgency that affects the globe broadly and far into the future, but unevenly. The massive environmental changes wrought by energy-intensive growth have already exceeded the carrying capacity of many of the world’s ecosystems. Climate change is at once a grave problem and a potential opportunity to rethink our economic lives. It has been an impetus to redefine mainstream approaches to sustainable development within a fossil-fueled capitalism. However, a deliberate program of “neoliberal adaptation” to climate change is emerging in sites of sustainable development intervention in a way that promises a consolidation of capitalist discipline. Anthropologists should thus engage a more robust ethnographic agenda rooted in environmental justice.

Article

Taxation  

Lotta Björklund Larsen and Karen Boll

Taxation is the collection by a revenue authority of levies, fees, or charges from residents, businesses, or other legal entities deemed taxable pursuant to laws and regulations. Taxation affects most people in the world within the confines of a nation, state, or region. Some people claim taxation is theft by the state, others claim that it is a moral action and duty, and a third view is that taxes are expenses that citizens incur in order to make claims on the state. Taxation is thus an area of contestation. Taxpayers pay taxes on what they produce or transport, on their salaries and other income, and on their consumption. Taxation not only has a fiscal purpose, but can be used for resource allocation within society, for income redistribution, and for leveling economic stability to address issues of unemployment, prices, and economic growth. Research on taxation has been conducted in most social sciences. Legal scholars discuss changes to the law, economists emphasize taxation’s economic impact within the constraints of models, the accounting discipline addresses the organization and measurement of taxation, and behavioral economists and psychologists aim to predict human behavior in taxation experiments. While this research has extended the knowledge of fiscal practices, taxation has long been in dire need of a critical perspective on its human consequences, its social impact, and how it is culturally shaped. An emerging anthropology of taxation can address these issues. The anthropology of taxation opens a host of interconnected issues at the nexus of states, markets, and citizenship. It focuses on money, work, and ownership; notions of fairness and honesty or avoidance and evasion; the politics of regulation and redistribution; and the balance between taking responsibility for oneself and for others, to name a few. Ethnographic studies of taxation can depict how various stakeholders in the tax arena shape and are shaped by taxation. And they can illustrate how subjects of taxation—residents, businesses, communities, and societies—through their view on and practices of taxation, negotiate their relation to the state and to other beneficiaries. Turning our attention to the collecting side, taxation provides a multifaceted arena for issues such as policymaking, governance, and digitalization. The role that tax advisers play, often advising taxpayers on curtailing tax, also suggests a complicated relation with society. Anthropologists can untangle and illustrate the relations taxation create between various stakeholders through notions of social contract, governance, fiscal citizenship, reciprocity, and redistribution.

Article

Techno-cultural Groups of the Middle Paleolithic of West Africa  

Djidere Baldé

The West African Middle Paleolithic is characterized by industrial assemblages “on flakes” and “on picks,” which the regional literature has designated “Mousteroid,” “Aterian,” and “Sangoan” because they present morpho-technological characteristics that differ from those of Europe. Within these industrial complexes, Levallois reduction and discoid techniques were regularly developed, along with types of tools that imparted a particular cultural cachet to each assemblage. Despite the discovery of numerous and varied sites and industries, these West African Middle Paleolithic cultures remain very poorly understood, both in terms of their geographic distribution and their chronology.

Article

The Archaeology of Soapstone Figurines in West Africa  

Kola Adekola

Stone working technology is very rare in West Africa. Unlike other artistic techniques, stone working even in ancient times was limited to certain locations. This could be a result of the fact that not all stones can be worked even by those who have the skills to do so. The raw material for stone working—steatite—must be present in a locality or nearby where it can easily be harvested. A second requirement is the presence of highly skilled individuals who have knowledge of stone carving. Also fundamental, perhaps, is a social environment that enables stone working technology to thrive: for a society or group to engage in carving stones, the group must be administratively stable—that is, the organs of government (whether sophisticated or elementary) must have the capacity to cater to the artisans, or groups of artisans. Such a society must have a stable food supply. Outside Nigeria, among the Mende people of Sierra Leone, stone carvings called “Nomoli” are found in caves and earthen mounds and are mostly discovered by farmers. The Mende believe in the spiritual potency of the carved objects. Hence, they place them in shrines and by their rice fields to increase the fertility of the crops. If the crops do not fare well, the little figures are whipped so that they will do better the following year. The Esie figrines which were over a thousand pieces have been subject of study by scholars who have used the lenses of their different disciplines to have insights into what the soapstone represents as well as the identity of their makers. The makers of the soapstone figurines were agrarian people who organized themselves as a mini state. This enabled them to mobilize the necessary labor force that was required for the manufacture of the Esie soapstone figures.

Article

The Challenges of Planning for High-Impact Research  

Brian L. Foster

In major universities, research must be seen in many dimensions: the different disciplines, basic vs. applied, incremental vs. transformative, disciplinary or interdisciplinary, single researcher or collaborative, and much more. A fundamental difference that receives increasing attention is the distinction between incremental research vs. transformative research. Incremental research takes existing research results to the next step while transformative research opens up whole new ways of framing questions, often challenging what is “known,” and leading to new paths of knowledge creation that could lead to new academic disciplines or completely new approaches to practical issues/problems. Incremental research is critical to bring existing results to their most valuable ends. Transformative research has high impact in opening up new paths to important knowledge, but it poses daunting challenges in being unpredictable, long term, and high risk. Providing appropriate infrastructure is critical for all kinds of research (e.g., facilities, lab space, special equipment, staff support). To assure sustained access to these resources, effective planning is necessary, which poses a significant challenge given the long-term, high-risk, and unpredictable nature of transformative research. To address these planning challenges, it is necessary to explore ways of creating an environment and resources that make successful transformative research more likely to happen rather than planning for incremental research. Such strategies include supporting uniquely powerful facilities that fit with academic strengths (e.g., a strong research reactor, radio-astronomy facility). Another is to maintain a supportive environment for interdisciplinary research. Yet another strategy is to orient performance evaluation away from productivity, which is the enemy of long-term, risky, unpredictable research. And lastly, it is critical to have a positive mindset for challenges to existing knowledge.

Article

Theoretical Perspectives in Peruvian Archaeology  

Henry Tantaleán

This article explains the development of theoretical perspectives in Peruvian archaeology from the end of the 19th century to the first decades of the 21st century. These perspectives have been characterized by having been influenced, mainly from Western Europe and United States of America, in various ways due to the nature of the Peruvian archaeological remains and their sociopolitical context. Likewise, in Peru, there is an important diversity in the use of hegemonic archaeological theories and the particular use of theories by Peruvian and even foreign archaeologists. Therefore, in this entry, we will refer to the most relevant archaeological theoretical perspectives recognized in Peru and which are evolutionary, culture-historical, Marxist, processualist, and postprocessualist. However, no one archaeologist is a “pure example” of each theory. In fact, many archaeologists have used different theories in archaeological explanations. Because a significant number of archaeologists have focused on the study of the Andes, mainly from the pre-Hispanic era, in this article a series of significant periods and themes of Peruvian archeology have been selected in which a significant number of studies have been carried out. In this way, archaeological perspectives have developed in the concrete practice of such archaeologists. Thus, in this article, we will see how archaeological theoretical perspectives in Peruvian archaeology have been developed in relation to the following areas, social phenomena, and periods: the Norte Chico area and the Late Preceramic Period (3000–1800 bc), Chavín de Huántar and the Early Horizon (1000–200 bc), the North Coast and Moche Society (200–800 ad), Huari and the Andean Imperial Phenomenon (600–1000 ad), and Cusco and the Inca Empire (1300–1532 ad).