Making Communities Work: Organizational Diversity in the Eastern Woodlands of North America

Author(s): Jennifer Birch

Year: 2015


Stephen Kowalewski has advanced a number of conceptual frameworks for the comparative study of organizational complexity. His multiscalar, cross-cultural approach permits the recognition of broad patterns while incorporating meaningful variation. In a 2013 paper, Steve explores the "work" involved in the formation of large, co-residential communities. He suggests that we might productively focus on the labor process, as community members purposefully redirected people’s time, energy, and resources to particular ends. In this paper, the social and physical work of making community is used as a framework to explore the development of organizational complexity and diversity in eastern North America. Archaeological, ethnographic, and historical data are combined to understand relations of production, consumption, power, ideology, and the development of sociopolitical organization in multiple subregions. For some communities, work became more intense, differentiated, and specialized in the absence of clearly defined hierarchies. In others, highly visible leaders emerged, though the relationship between political complexity and labor is far from clear. Thinking about how habituated practices of work structures social relations and articulates with large-scale, long-term societal patterning allows us to transcend normative constructs of eastern North American societies as "chiefdoms" and "confederacies."

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Making Communities Work: Organizational Diversity in the Eastern Woodlands of North America. Jennifer Birch. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 395858)


Spatial Coverage

min long: -91.274; min lat: 24.847 ; max long: -72.642; max lat: 36.386 ;