Session: #385

Theme & Session Format

5. Theories and methods in archaeology: interactions between disciplines
Session format:
Regular session

Title & Content

To Gender or Not to Gender? Exploring Gender Variations through Time and Space [AGE]
A recent controversial study of Neolithic gender as opposed to Bronze Age gender in Europe (Robb & Harris 2018) necessitates further discussion. In a field encompassing enormous gender diversity through time and space, it is important to tease apart social constructions (is there 'gender'?) from analytical categories (what kind of gender?). Defining the relationship between sex/gender/identity/society through time has left some commentators believing that mainstream gender archaeology argues for a single understanding of 'gender' across time and space.
One of the aims of this AGE session is to refute such a claim, in overcoming binary thinking as the guiding principle of exploring gender and inviting case-studies with representations of binary, as well as non-binary, gender symbolism. Two types of contributions are invited:
1) Theoretical papers discussing whether a structuralist approach is justified by the need to have a 'fixed' category of gender that will enable meaningful comparison between different times and places. Is there really a moment in human development when we can no longer speak of sex-based behaviour but rather of gender-based behaviour? And if yes, when did it happen and why? Did this happen just once or at different times at different places? And was it uni-directional or are there cases of reversed behaviour from gender-based to sex-based? Did the size of the group affect the sex-based and gender-based behaviour and what were the implications for gender diversity? Answers to these questions can come from a wide range of case studies with broad spatial and chronological coverage.
2) Zooming into European Prehistory - can we really say that Neolithic gender is exclusively contextual and fuzzy, while Bronze Age gender is exclusively cross-contextual and binary and Copper Age gender represents a transition from one to the other? Presentations of case-studies exploring such a trichotomy are encouraged from across Europe.
gender diversity, binary non-binary gender, sex-based behaviour, gender-based behaviour, contextual 'fuzzy' gender, uniform gender understanding
Session associated with MERC:
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Main organiser:
Bisserka Gaydarska (Bulgaria) 1
Katharina Rebay-Salisbury (Austria) 2
Paz Ramirez-Valiente (United Kingdom) 3
Jana Fries (Germany) 4
1. Independent researcher
2. Institute for Oriental and European Archaeology
3. University of Nottingham, UK
4. Lower Saxony State Service for Cultural Heritage