Session: #119

Theme & Session Format

5. Assembling archaeological theory and the archaeological sciences
Session format:
Discussion session (with formal abstracts)

Title & Content

On Class, Elitism, and Poverty: Archaeology and Social Class
One of the most confounding issues of our age concerns ‘social class’. Does it still make sense to talk about social class today? Does the tripartite class system separating the lower/middle/upper class represent current and social and economic reality? Or are we perhaps being deceived into thinking that we are all just middle-class?
In a discipline where gender and ethnic politics play a big role, we question why the topics of social class, elitism, poverty, have not had the same amount of discussion. This is particularly strange when we take into consideration that Marxist theory, and its examination of class, remains one of the most popular theoretical approaches used in archaeology. In fact, in recent years, the rise of anarchist theory in explaining past economic behaviour should have inspired discussion on class politics, but this has yet to happen. Likewise, recent aDNA studies has generated some discussion on populist movements across Europe but not much of this discussion has focused on class, elites, or poverty.
The aim of this session is to generate that discussion. This means a twofold focus – we wish to examine whether it remains useful to archaeology to think of past societies in terms of social class, namely can we see past (e.g. prehistoric) elitism and poverty as we understand those terms today; additionally, we want to discuss the social class of current archaeological practitioners. In particular, our aim is to analyse subtle class disparities, such as that separating contract archaeologists from academics; we also want to discuss differential access to funding within Europe and what that means to our understanding of transnational archaeological phenomena; and finally, we also want to discuss where archaeologists come from, in terms of their general social and economic background.
Class, Poverty, Elitism, Inequality, Funding, Economics
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Main organiser:
Artur Ribeiro (Germany) 1
Alexandra Ion (Romania) 2
1. Kiel University
2. Institutul de Antropologie “Francisc J. Rainer”