The Archaeology of Gossip: Delineating the Space of Interpersonal Performance

Author(s): Alexander Brown

Year: 2018


Much of the literature on performance in cultural and political spheres in archaeology over the last 4 decades has focused on social memory. This paper shifts that discussion from the arena of public commemoration and cultural rites to the de facto performances of the domestic sphere. Private, interpersonal interactions are important in the transmission and creation of social memory as well- they place an individual’s social world in the context of shared social memory, and vice versa. Gossip is cited with frequency in ethnographic accounts and anthropological analysis as containing a wealth of sociocultural meanings; is it possible in archaeology to gain perspectives from such "immaterial" interactions?

This study identifies and interrogates the physical environments in which gossip would have occurred, entertainment and congregation spaces in domestic contexts, by modeling Roman domestic space as a performative space in which interpersonal influence was crucial. In the Roman Empire, gossip was a notoriously influential sociopolitical practice that was enacted and documented in many public forums with great performative flair, and thus provides an excellent case for comparison of the material conditions of this practice with written accounts.

Cite this Record

The Archaeology of Gossip: Delineating the Space of Interpersonal Performance. Alexander Brown. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 442914)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 21996