Authority and the production of archaeological knowledge

  • Natalija Ćosić Centre for Preventive Conservation Dijana Central Institute for Conservation, Belgrade
Keywords:
authority, production of knowledge, ethnography of archaeological practice, power/knowledge

Abstract

The discipline of archaeology is founded upon the interaction of various practices, in the network of individuals and institutions, jointly shaping and formulating the explanations of the past. The registered sites and material remains represent the places where undefined layers and physical structures are converted from heaps of dirt and discarded material into the knowledge of the past. From the perspective of production of knowledge and construction of facts about the times past, the archaeological excavations are not only a process of research. The production of archaeological knowledge, in the field and beyond, always takes place under specific circumstances, including not only the relations among professionals and institutions, but also the relations between material remains and the individuals “discovering” them and translating them into interpretations. Metaphorically speaking, in the complex relationship between archaeologists and material culture, an individual in the process of creating the knowledge of an object creates his/her own professional identity, while an object creates an archaeologist in the process of identification. The final outcome presents a chosen and formulated explanation about the past, stemming from a specific logic of disciplinary practice. However, the question arises: what or who decides which interpretations are more valid than the others, and who is in the position to declare an authentic interpretation of the excavated material. Thus the discussion enters the field of problematizing the concept of authority and its role in the production of archaeological knowledge. The analyses show that authority should not be understood as a definite source, periodically appearing and disappearing, but rather as an achievement of social and cultural interactions and changes. The theoretical grounds for the research of authority is formulated based upon Foucault’s interpretation of relation between power and knowledge. The axis for identification of authority in disciplinary practices is determined by the chosen categories of executive, epistemic, and intellectual authority, coupled with archaeological ethnography. The suggested development of the theoretical framework is aimed to secure the tools for considering the shapes and sources of authority in archaeology and its role in the production of archaeological knowledge of the past.

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Published
2016-11-02
How to Cite
Ćosić, N. (2016). Authority and the production of archaeological knowledge. Issues in Ethnology and Anthropology, 11(3), 749–774. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.21301/eap.v11i3.6