Anarchy and Archaeology

By Matthew Sanger and Lewis Borck

The genesis of our special section, “Anarchy and Archaeology,” was a symposium chaired by Matthew Sanger and Lewis Borck at the 80th annual SAA meeting in San Francisco. At that time and as the issue took shape, few expected the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election. But as Donald Trump prepares to take the oath of office as the next president of the United States, there is a serious concern within our archaeological and wider cultural heritage communities for future funding of archaeological research and protection of heritage resources. There is talk of organizing for legal resistance against anticipated federal and state-level assaults on our discipline and resources (among other things). Could there be a better time to have a discussion about anarchy theory in archaeology?
As guest editors Borck and Sanger point out, anarchy has gained a bad name, much like Marxism, in many public circles. We hear about mobs and vandalism and spray-painted images of that iconic “A” in public places. But anarchy as a theoretical paradigm in the social sciences is much more than an appeal to, well, anarchy. Contributors to the special section make it clear that anarchy theory in archaeology is about furthering our understanding of societies organized in ways that are not hierarchical. It is clearly also about understanding the organization and actions associated with resistance movements. Thus, as archaeologists, much of our subject matter, whether consideration of hunter-gatherer sociality, Neolithic village networks, or dominance and resistance within and between more complex polities, is well served by anarchy theory.
Contributors discuss an array of topics in both full-length articles and shorter sidebars. Welch considers anarchy and the study of resistance movements. Crumley explores theoretical issues in “anarchaeology.” Henry et al. examine the implications of anarchy theory for creating typologies on multiple scales. Kintz provides a deeply personal manifesto for an anarchic worldview with important implications for how we position ourselves ethically, socially, and politically as archaeologists. Sanger argues for the utility of anarchic thinking in the study of hunter-gatherers. Sidebars by Pacifico, Orser Jr., Birmingham, Fajardo and Rotermund, and Montgomery take us down a number of additional paths in our exploration of anarchic thought for archaeology.

Categories: Anarchism/Anti-State

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