Regional Approaches to Society and Complexity - Alex R. Knodell

Regional Approaches to Society and Complexity - Alex R. Knodell

14. The Way Things Are...

Regional Approaches to Society and Complexity - Alex R. Knodell

A. Bernard Knapp [+-]
University of Glasgow
A. Bernard Knapp is Emeritus Professor of Mediterranean Archaeology in the Archaeology division of the School of Humanities at the University of Glasgow, and Honorary Research Fellow at the Cyprus American Archaeological Research Institute. He co-edits the Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology with John F. Cherry and Peter van Dommelen and is the general editor of the series Monographs in Mediterranean Archaeology (Equinox). He is the author or editor of several books including, most recently The Cambridge Prehistory of the Bronze-Iron Age Mediterranean (Cambridge University Press, 2014), co-edited with Peter van Dommelen. Email:


Appadurai’s edited volume The Social Life of Things (1986) first sought to highlight multiple ways in which ‘things’, like people, have active social lives, even biographies. Since then, this train of thought has taken multiple turns, and gone through many diversions and amplifications to, amongst others, agency, materiality and object/material agency, the ‘cognitive life of things’, human-thing ‘entanglements’, ‘symmetrical’ archaeology and the ‘new materialisms’. The end result appears to be a sweeping critique of ‘anthropocentricity’, in which it is argued that the archaeological study of cultures need not have any reference to humans, whether agents, individuals, subjects, or collectivities, but instead must focus on the nexus amongst things. Things, then, are not just tokens or surrogates for human acts or activities, but rather act as material agents in their own right. Taking some materials from archaeometallurgy — specifically that of Bronze Age Cyprus as known from regional archaeological survey and excavation — as my point of discussion, this paper critiques the overall notion of ‘material agency’ and considers the cultural biography of metallurgical ‘things’, seeking to separate the chaff of materiality from the wheat of material culture.

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Knapp, A. Bernard. 14. The Way Things Are.... Regional Approaches to Society and Complexity. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 288-308 Jan 2018. ISBN 9781781795279. Date accessed: 25 Jun 2019 doi: 10.1558/equinox.30817. Jan 2018

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