Maran, J. & Stockhammer, Ph. W. (Eds.), Materiality and Social Practice: Transformative Capacities and Intercultural Encounters (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2012, 224pp., b/w illustr., hbk, ISBN 978-1-84217-458-6). ($68.40 at amazon.com)
Joseph Maran is a leading archaeologist-scientist in the world. As a professor and leader at University of Heidelberg, he has unique opportunity to combine his personality with American origin and the classic interest of German in archaeology of materiality. In recently published review in European Journal of Archaeology Michael Galaty has been approaching the contributions in the volume from the perspectives of his research on archaeology.
Many advanced archaeologists and leading scientists feel the very insecure soil of the traditional archaeology in the 21st century. Recently, the top world archaeologist Douglass W Bailey has even rejected to compliment the visual culture represented in and through archaeology by worlds which seem have lost any value in this field. The reason is simple: in early 21sy century archaeology has been reproduced without fundamental new theoretical constructs and especially for the young archaeologists replication and reproduction of theory of later 20th century looks easy and solid career maker and way to find a place job at university. Also, some Cold War professors revealed themselves as non-professionals in shaming published books. This creates an ocean of grey literature, invasion of archaeological science by non-scientists career makers who may trouble the honest researchers even with psychotronic terrorism (supported or/and directed by their peers). Then, to write today on and about archaeology is a challenge.
In the review has been identified several key theoretical themes in the book: 1) culture change, i.e. ‘transformation’, via inter- or trans-cultural interaction, with a focus on local contexts; 2) agency, that of both humans and things, with a focus on habitus; and 3) appropriation and hybridity, leading to new forms of identity. According to Galaty (2014: 164), what "is striking about this list of themes is not so much what is there, and present in the rest of the book, but rather what is missing, and fully absent from nearly all chapters".
The author concludes: “What is especially exciting about Materiality and Social Practice is that in its
chapters we can see various theoretical tensions and conflicts being worked out, in real time, using excellent archaeological data. In this review I have taken these same data and turned them on their head, arguing that the Mediterranean Bronze Age was not characterized by appropriation and hybridity leading to transformational change and the construction of new identities. Rather, it was a period of relative stability, during which packages of foreign goods were used to prop up entrenched political-economic structures. And while I have critiqued Maran and Stockhammer’s theoretical stance, this is not meant to diminish the importance of their book. The chapters in Materiality and Social Practice, many of which were written by junior scholars, signal an opportunity. Over the next few years, as archaeological theory continues to grow and develop, maybe we can work together to avert another precipitous swing back in the generalizing, evolutionary, processual theoretical direction. We should seize the day, before archaeological history repeats itself.” (Galaty 2014: 167).
Archaeology is about materiality and culture and its turn toward new directions of rehumanization depends completely on those who have the power to make choices. The best in this case is that Joseph Maran came out on the social stage not only as a professor at Heidelberg and an individual author, but as a conference organizer and an editor of a collection of works. More similar activity for sure will be fruitful for contemporary global archaeology since Maran is an extraordinary intellectual scientist who not only understands culture but can really make quality culture.
Galaty, M. Joseph Maran and Philipp W. Stockhammer, eds. Materiality and Social Practice: Transformative Capacities and Intercultural Encounters (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2012, 224pp., b/w illustr., hbk, ISBN 978-1-84217-458-6). Journal of European Archaeology, 17, 1, 162-167.