The Archaeology of Common Sense

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

Rather than colloquial wisdom, Clifford Geertz argued, common sense was culturally constructed, historically contingent, and in need of querying. As such, like myth or art or knowledge, common sense was a cultural system in need of anthropological attention. Though his concern was for the ethnographic present, investigators of ancient and historic remains have much to contribute to common sense's analysis. Their expansive time frames can reveal the processes that work so assiduously to turn history into human nature. In this session, contributors are asked to identify and interrogate contemporary commonsensical notion—about gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, class, time, etc.—that find their way into scientific studies and/or popular presentations of the past. This naturalization of the cultural is not without consequences, and contributors may also deliberate about the socio-political effects, whether intended or not, of reifying common sense. Finally, as a counter to universalizing and presentist narratives of the past, contributors are encouraged to offer evidence from their contextualized archaeological and bioarchaeological studies that highlight the varied ways to be human.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-8 of 8)

  • Documents (8)

  • The Common Sense of Institutions and Modalities of Happiness (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Michael Frachetti.

    Love, money, success, purpose, identity, companionship, family, enlightenment: these 'things' and more have been proposed as measurable indexes of happiness. Recent scholarship on the theme of happiness presents it paradoxically as something seemingly tangible and sensory -- a common-sensical object of pursuit -- and something ethereal and subject to existential contemplation. Does one choose "the red pill or blue pill" (to quote the film "The Matrix"). Yet setting its existential reality...

  • The Edge of Humanity: Why Commonsensical Notions about Nature Impede our Understandings of Structural Violence in the Arizona Desert (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jason De Leon.

    Since the 1990’s Border Patrol has employed a strategy known as "Prevention Through Deterrence." This policy emphasizes heightened security around urban ports of entry so that undocumented migrants will attempt to cross the border in more remote areas that are difficult to traverse but easy for law enforcement to patrol. Rather than deterring migration, hundreds of thousands of people each year now spend days in the desert attempting to walk across one of the most extreme environments in North...

  • Love Never Dies? (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Pamela Geller.

    In this talk, I examine the contemporary commonsensical thinking about sex, gender, and sexuality that informs study of bioarchaeological remains. To this end, I focus on double burials whose decedents appear to be embracing—their discovery, investigation, and presentation in scholarly and popular settings. Images of and stories about these ancient embracers garner significant and often sensationalized attention in myriad, global spaces. Here I deliberate about their representation in...

  • On the need for more "gut theory" in academic archaeology (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Larry Zimmerman.

    If we want archaeology to matter we need to get back to some basics. Processual archaeology got archaeologists drunk on theory. Post-Processual archaeology offered what appeared to be a hangover cure, but was really just the "hair-of-the-dog." In its theory addiction, the discipline seems to be hooked on a "philosophy du jour," stimulating in the classroom, a dissertation, or a monograph, but which quickly gets stale and unsatisfying. Academic archaeologists in particular seem to lose sight of...

  • Quantifying Indianness: Commonsensical practice in U.S. bioarchaeology and skeletal biology (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Ann Kakaliouras.

    Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, U.S. museums and universities amassed massive stores of the skeletons of Native American people. These collections eventually became the source-base for bioarchaeology, a subfield of both physical anthropology and archaeology that emerged in the 1970’s and continues producing interpretations about past Native American identities from the study of skeletal remains. Over the last few decades, the reburial movement and the passage of NAGPRA has slowed—or...

  • Too Much Common Sense,Not Enough Critical Reflection (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Thomas Patterson.

    This paper explores two different views about common sense--those of Clifford Geertz and Antonio Gramsci. It examines their presuppositions, their utility for archaeologists, and considers the implications of current common-sense explanations of the past SAA 2015 abstracts made available in tDAR courtesy of the Society for American Archaeology and Center for Digital Antiquity Collaborative Program to improve digital data in archaeology. If you are the author of this presentation you may upload...

  • Turning Privilege into "Common-Sense": Truth-Claims and Control of Cultural Heritage (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jon Daehnke.

    Over the course of the last few decades Indigenous and descendant communities have increasingly made calls for control of their own heritage, both in terms of material objects and historical narratives. While these efforts have resulted in at least some measure of success, these communities continue to occasionally face challenges from researchers, scholars, and other agents who are in positions of power that allow them to control and define what heritage consist of. In my paper I interrogate...

  • Women, Reproduction, and Fertility: How "Common-Sense" Assumptions of the Present Filter into the Mesoamerican Past (2015)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Shankari Patel.

    This paper queries models of Mesoamerican fertility that define women’s social roles in terms of dependency, and interrogates narratives that link gender relations to nature where they are beyond critique. The problem with the category women is that it is often thought of as an ahistorical and eternal facet of biology hidden within an implicit model of human nature. Biology becomes a metaphor for social relations and wifehood or motherhood is then characterized as a relation of dependency...