Setting theoretical egos aside: Issues and theory in North American archaeology

Michelle Hegmon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

191 Scopus citations


Theory in North American archaeology is characterized in terms of foci and approaches manifested in research issues, rather than in explicit or oppositional theoretical positions. While there are some clear-cut theoretical perspectives-evolutionary ecology, behavioral archaeology, and Darwinian archaeology-a large majority of North American archaeology fits a broad category here called "processual-plus." Among the major themes that crosscut many or all of the approaches are interests in gender, agency/practice, symbols and meaning, material culture, and native perspectives. Gender archaeology is paradigmatic of processual-plus archaeology, in that it draws on a diversity of theoretical approaches to address a common issue. Emphasis on agency and practice is an important development, though conceptions of agency are too often linked to Western ideas of individuals and motivation. The vast majority of North American archaeology, including postprocessual approaches, is modern, not postmodern, in orientation. The relative dearth of theoretical argument positively contributes to diversity and dialogue, but it also may cause North American theory to receive inadequate attention and unfortunate misunderstandings of postmodernism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-243
Number of pages31
JournalAmerican Antiquity
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Archaeology
  • Museology


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