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People without Collapse: Peripheries as Active Participants in Cultural Transformations

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 80th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA (2015)

Eric Wolf's seminal work, Europe and the People Without History (1982), drew our attention to the periphery as an important locus of anthropological inquiry. By examining "people without history," Wolf was able to show that social complexity before the modern era was not a process that laid solely in the development and decline of isolated societies. Rather, both ancient and modern forms of social complexity rest upon the interconnections among peoples at global scales. This perspective has especially significant import for the archaeology of collapse, as it suggests that our frame of inquiry needs to be much wider than it has traditionally been. Specifically, we must consider the "peoples without collapse" - those groups that are generally excluded from collapse narratives, either because their complexity is non-hierarchical, or because they lie on the periphery of hierarchically-organized states, city-state networks or empires. Some processes of collapse may be most visible in peripheral areas, and the actions and changes that occur in these areas may play important roles in collapse as experienced in political and economic core areas. Ultimately, a focus on periphery areas and peoples provides insight into the relative stability of different social institutions in societies experiencing cultural transformation.


Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-10 of 10)

  • Documents (10)

Documents

  • Collapse from the Outside In: A View from the Western Maya Periphery (2015)
    Citation DOCUMENT Roberto Lopez Bravo. Elizabeth H. Paris.

    Despite the sociopolitical instability and depopulation observed at numerous sites in the Southern Maya Lowlands during the 9th century A.D., often referred to as the "Maya Collapse," numerous politically and geographically peripheral sites do not show evidence of these characteristics. Many of the small cities and towns of the Central Highlands of Chiapas maintained their roles as political centers throughout the Late Classic-Early Postclassic period transition, and also experienced demographic...

  • Comparing World-Systems: Empire Upsweeps and Non-core marcher states Since the Bronze Age (2015)
    Citation DOCUMENT Hiroko Inoue. Christopher Chase-Dunn. Eugene Anderson. Alexis Álvarez. Christian Jaworski.

    This is an examination of one of the implications of the hypothesis of semiperipheral development: that major increases in the sizes of polities have been attained by the conquests of semiperipheral marcher states. We use the comparative evolutionary world-systems perspective to frame our study of upsweeps of the largest polities in four regional world-systems and in the Central system since the Bronze Age. Each of the twenty-two identified upsweeps is examined whether it is an instance of a...

  • In-Visible Periphery of Old World "Collapse": Recognizing choice and circumstance in the archaeological record of mobile pastoralists (2015)
    Citation DOCUMENT Lynne Rouse.

    As in many regions of the Old World, the end of the Bronze Age in southern Central Asia is marked by a prolonged period of social "collapse" toward the end of the 2nd millennium BC, during which the size, arrangement, and apparent sphere of influence of agriculturally-based population centers changed. Discussions of this period focus primarily on the loss of visible markers of social hierarchy and inter-regional trade networks, but as our collective knowledge of mobile pastoralists in Eurasian...

  • Ingenuity from the Periphery: Contributions to Old World Transformations from the Aral Sea deltas (2015)
    Citation DOCUMENT Elizabeth Brite.

    The deltas of the Aral Sea lie within an internal drainage basin where critical water resources are prone to unpredictable change. The nature of this resource landscape discourages the emergence of enduring centralized states and was a key factor that led to the peripheral status of the deltas in world history. Nevertheless, complex social institutions did develop there in the early 1st millennium B.C. – late 1st millennium A.D., and these were based on especially diverse and flexible economic...

  • The Invisibility of Reactive Foragers and its Implications for Traditional Ecological Knowledge (2015)
    Citation DOCUMENT Erana Loveless.

    "Reactive foragers" are people who switched to intensive foraging in reaction to crises. They are largely a people without history because their turn to foraging decreased their archaeological visibility and increased their remoteness from the centers of civilization where written history is concentrated. Ironically, while colonialism was often a driver for reactive foraging it also introduced the keys for reactive foragers to succeed in some cases. Reactive foraging can explain the loss of...

  • Liberty on the periphery: How Actuncan, Belize escaped the Classic Maya collapse (for a time) (2015)
    Citation DOCUMENT David Mixter.

    In recent years, scholars working in the Classic period Maya periphery questioned traditional narratives of the 9th century Maya collapse by pointing to settlements along the periphery of the lowlands that appear to have maintained relative cultural and demographic stability. However, this generalization obscures dramatic sociopolitical changes these communities implemented to remain successful through the collapse. In this paper, I argue that populations on the periphery relied on a locally...

  • Medieval Warmth: Did the Medieval Warm Period Sink the Maya but Make the Mongols? (2015)
    Citation DOCUMENT E. Anderson.

    World temperatures are now back up to the range last seen in the Medieval Warm Period (MWP), a time known to have caused droughts in many areas, warmer moister weather in others. The droughts may have destroyed lowland Maya civilization, as well as Pueblo III culture, and may also have impacted Khmer civilization in Cambodia, and other tropical cultures. Recently, Mongolia has been shown to have had warmer weather, which would have made life easier for forest and grassland Mongols, though...

  • On the Periphery of Collapse: An Archaeobotanical View from the Mycenaean Hinterland at Tsoungiza (2015)
    Citation DOCUMENT Susan Allen. Kathleen Forste.

    The site of Tsoungiza, situated in the Nemea Valley of southern Greece, offers a glimpse into processes of agricultural and land-use practices in the Mycenaean hinterland and their intersection with the waxing and waning of Mycenaean political, economic, and social control. After abandonment in the Early Helladic III period (ca. 2,000 B.C.), the site was re-occupied during the late Middle Helladic III (ca. 1,650 B.C.), at a time of regional population expansion associated with the rise of the...

  • People without Collapse: An Introduction (2015)
    Citation DOCUMENT Elizabeth Paris. Elizabeth Brite.

    Eric Wolf's seminal work, Europe and the People Without History (1982), drew our attention to the periphery as an important locus of anthropological inquiry. By examining "people without history," Wolf was able to show that social complexity before the modern era was not a process that laid solely in the development and decline of isolated societies. Rather, both ancient and modern forms of social complexity rest upon the interconnections among peoples at global scales. This perspective has...

  • Reevaluating Vijayanagara Imperial Collapse (2015)
    Citation DOCUMENT Elizabeth Bridges.

    This paper reexamines notions of imperial collapse by looking at recent archaeological work at the eponymous capital of the Vijayanagara Empire and at settlements of one of its subordinate regional polities. The Vijayanagara Empire is well-known archaeologically through work at its primary capital at modern day Hampi, Karnataka, India, which is today recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The former primary capital city was intensively occupied until just after the empire suffered a serious...

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America