Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant: Social Transformations and Regional Scales of Identity in the Cibola World: AD 1150-1325

  • Kintigh, Keith (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


This research is concerned with understanding the social processes associated with large-scale, regional social transformations observable in the archaeological record. Contemporary social theory proposes that many wide-spread social transformations are the result of scale shifts in social movements, that is, shifts to new forms of identification that encompass larger and more distinct groups. Although the archaeological record is marked by numerous rapid transitions in material culture that likely indicate such social transformations, the specific interrelationships between these transformations and social identities at regional scales have not been fully addressed. The proposed research focuses on these interrelationships using an example from the Cibola region of the U.S. Southwest during an era of rapid demographic and social change (ca. AD 1150-1325). This research applies insights from theoretical models, developed in sociology and political science, focused on the development of large-scale social movements and collective identities. Researchers working from these perspectives are concerned with the modes in which identification takes place, rather than with specific kinds of social identity (e.g., ethnicity, class, etc.). This work suggests that social identification can be divided into two major modes; relational identification based on networks of interaction among individuals, and categorical identification based on affiliation with social roles or groups to which one can belong (with or without direct interaction). Importantly, scale shifts and resultant social transformations, which are key issues in this research, can be linked to changes in these modes of social identification. This research involves three components: (1) Evidence for social transformations, indicated by rapid demographic and settlement transitions, will be developed through settlement studies, drawing on a large site database previously compiled by the co-PI. (2) Networks of social interaction, the basis of relational identities, will be addressed through two analyses. Data from Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis will be used to characterize pottery production, exchange, and distribution across the region. Technological analyses of ceramics and architectural features will be used to assess the extent to which methods of production of various forms of material culture (utility ware ceramics and domestic architecture) were shared across the region. Shared technological styles will be interpreted as evidence for regular interaction and strong relational connections among the producers of these items. (3) The active expression of collective social identities will be addressed through two additional analyses. First, stylistic characterizations of bold, exterior designs on feasting bowls will show settlements that shared common, highly-visible stylistic conventions that likely related to the active expression of membership within categorical social groups. Second, characterizations of public architecture will be used to assess shared public ritual practices, also interpreted as evidence of categorical identification. These analyses focus on documenting major social transformations, as well as developing and applying methods for tracing changes in the processes of social identification through time. Intellectual Merits: The proposed research provides a new avenue for connecting the trajectories of past social transformations and the processes involved in such events to the archaeological record, using the Cibola region as a case study. The large, well-documented regional database of settlements, ceramic source data, and material culture analyses will permit an examination of social change at scales that are seldom directly considered by archaeologists or ethnographers. Further, this research will develop a means for operationalizing theoretical concepts of social identity from other disciplines that may have
Effective start/end date9/1/098/31/10


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $10,000.00


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