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Comparative Water Histories: An Outline of Contrastive Juxtaposition as Method in Anthropological Archaeology

Author(s): Michael Harrower

Year: 2016

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Anthropology has long been marked by tension between emphasis on commonalities among histories and cultures on one hand, alongside emphasis on histories and cultures as unique, contingent, and exceptional on the other. Vernon Scarborough is one of few who have pioneered new understanding of water among ancient societies through both focused study of particular regions, as well as broad, synthetic comparison of water among ancient societies worldwide. In an era marked by a daily increasing plethora of information, global syntheses conducted by individuals become less and less feasible, and comparison as an addendum to research such as in edited volumes is a helpful but insufficient mode of analysis. I describe and argue for contrastive juxtaposition of two or a few cases, which can thus be examined in greater detail. Although comparison of two or three cases in analysis is not new, as exemplified in the work of Margaret Mead, Clifford Geertz, Marshall Sahlins, Robert Mc. Adams and Timothy Earle, this mode of comparison remains underutilized. We need not seek to prove cases are the same or closely similar; but rather, contrasting cases that are very different also yields critical insights with regard to inconspicuous similarities, differences and foundational dynamics.

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Comparative Water Histories: An Outline of Contrastive Juxtaposition as Method in Anthropological Archaeology. Michael Harrower. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403506)


comparative Theory water

Geographic Keywords
West Asia

Spatial Coverage

min long: 25.225; min lat: 15.115 ; max long: 66.709; max lat: 45.583 ;

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