ROOTS Public Lecture Series by JMA-Chair Gary Feinman

Feb 06, 2023 from 04:00 PM

CAP 3, Hörsaal 3 / Christian-Albrechts-Platz 3 / 24118 Kiel

How History Matters: Rethinking Premodern Governance and Inequality
Gary Feinman
(Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, USA)

We have learned a lot empirically in archaeology over the last 50 years, but our concepts and presumptions about human groups and how we organize politically stem from the mid-20th century and, in a sense, the century before that with focus on two big ideas, classifi cation and evolution (progress), as well as a strong emphasis on uniformity and linearity. Now, we have collected enough data to reassessand evaluate our long-standing tenets and assumptions. We now recognize that humans can be both
selfish and highly eff ective in affi liations with nonkin, so cooperation is situational and contingent, hence variable in space and time, not simply an outcome of our specific nature. We no longer can model premodern political organization as a black box or presume that the agency of people in the past was restricted to the elite few. Rather, as we have begun to defi ne under-conceptualized axes of variation, recognize the prevailing openness of our interpersonal affi liations, and see that the path of history is
not linear, it is time to probe and assess the temporal relationships between governance, well-being, and persistence through new conceptual lenses. The formulation of new frames, tenets, indicators, and research questions that leverage the analysis of variation to foster syntheses of the human career has the potential to provide probabilistic lessons to help understand the present and guide our futures.

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