Bodies of Power: The Bioarchaeology of Cooperation

Author(s): Sara L. Juengst

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "Cooperative Bodies: Bioarchaeology and Non-ranked Societies" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Power differences and status are most commonly associated with hierarchy; however, heterarchy, or horizontal power differentiation, is another common way of organizing complex communities. Rather than the vertical ranking commonly associated with hierarchy, heterarchy may include differential or shared access to power at various times based on labor, gender, or age, among other possibilities and may contain hierarchies within these categories. Cooperation and consensus are often crucial to heterarchical systems, as people invest in cooperative (rather than competitive) relationships to achieve common goals. Political and social relationships are inscribed on our bodies through our daily activites, access to resources, and social interactions. In particular, risk and experience of stress and disease, access to food, and trauma experiences are closely linked with power relationships. Bioarchaeology is thus well situated as a discipline to investigate the diversity of cooperative and competitive relationships in the past, although researchers have often not recognized this interpretive potential. This paper provides a theoretical platform about how hierarchy and heterarchy affect human bodies and investigates how archaeology and bioarchaeology have engaged with this topic to date. Providing an introduction to the rest of the session, the paper will also suggest new avenues for exploration.

Cite this Record

Bodies of Power: The Bioarchaeology of Cooperation. Sara L. Juengst. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 450628)

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 23205