ANTH 350- Historical Archaeology
Professor J. Moore- SP ‘13
The Archeology of Collective Action
When Dean Saitta wrote The Archeology of Collective Action: The American Experience in Archaeological Perspective, he aimed to address major issues that dealt with the study of archaeology. He focuses on how much archaeology has advanced and has clarified the concerns involving race, gender and class, which are all manifested into collective action. It is these actions that molded what we know today as the American experience. Saitta attests that that the discipline of archaeology not only tells us about our past, but it also tells us about what is going on in the our world today. Saitta looks at archeology and its success in the process of collective social actions that deal with the past. Some of these events include labor strikes, protests and rebellions on slave plantations. These events have impacted today’s society and Saitta analyzes the process of this. One of the main events was the Colorado Coal Strike of 1913-14. With this event, Saitta is able to build a case study in order for us to get a clear understanding of class-collective action. With the excavation of these sites, such as the Ludlow tents, archaeologists can bring about many conclusions that deal with the lifestyle of the people occupying the tents. Some of the conclusions one can come up with is how the people used several strategies in order to survive and overcome the state and corporate power. The is one of the most important times in labor history for people because it highlighted labor struggles and correlated with contemporary issues dealing with similar situations. It also paved the way for new laws to improve the working conditions for a lot of employers and applied benefits to the workers. Critical archaeology is mentioned in the book as a way of thinking in doing archaeology. The difference is that critical archaeology extends itself. It extends itself in the priority aspects of regular archaeology. Processual archaeologists argue that archaeology is not a social construction and that the notion that archeologists use and develop about culture is not social constructions, but are scientific constructions. Under this notion, they believe that archaeology is universal, as oppose to a particular region. Processual archeologists argue that the scientific activity is not part of the normal culture activity and the science portion is outside the culture. Saitta argues against this way of thinking. A part of it has to do with gender issues in the area of archaeology and how archaeologists explore gender. Some of the questions raised is what type of jobs women get, what type of promotions to where they get published etc. This makes gender part of the archaeologist’s daily present cultural concerns. Archaeologists along with these concerns may look for gender in their research and claim that they are imbedded in their present culture under that specific context and situation. The research on a conscious level, like in this example, is influenced by their research. The further extension implies that they are not always conscious of those influences upon them because the common sense of the culture we live in influence and shapes the way we do research. This philosophical outtake of critical archaeology is seen in the second chapter of Saitta’s book. Critical archaeology is how knowledge is produced and how it gets situation in society. When you produce truths, you reflect it on the world. From a critical archaeological perspective, one should be concern about how the project of archaeological research about the past is used today. How it is consumed and how it creates charters and justifications for how things operate in the present because of the notion of science. If this is true about human nature, then it should be true about how human society should progress.
The social construction of the concepts we use can...