Inconstant Companions: Archaeology and North American Indian - download pdf or read online

By Ronald J. Mason

Probably the most major theoretical concerns in modern American archaeology—the function of oral culture in clinical research. Ronald J. Mason explores the strain among aboriginal oral traditions and the perform of archaeology in North the US. That exploration is unavoidably interdisciplinary and set in a world context. certainly, the problems at stake are common within the present period of highbrow "decolonization" and multiculturalism. Unless devoted to writing, even the main esteemed utterances are unavoidably forgotten with the passing of generations, even if a lot the succeeding ones try and reproduce what they suspect they'd heard. Writing stocks with archaeo-logical is still a better, if unequal, toughness. via copious examples throughout educational and ethnographic spectra and over millennia, Mason examines the disparate capabilities of conventional "ways of figuring out" not like the paradigm of technology and important historiography.  

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The memory underlying Memoir of the Catawbas is in a curious state of double jeopardy. Pearson, its author, “fond of antiquarian researches and preserving legendary lore,” was ostensibly committed to writing a Catawba oral tradition he had garnered from now unknown and doubtless fast disappearing sources. At the time of the Memoir’s composition, the Catawba population of barely over a hundred souls was but a shadow of the thousands that had existed in the seventeenth century (Rudes et al. 2004:310; Swanton 1952:92).

We already know our history. It is passed on to us through our elders and through our religious practices” (quoted in Watkins 2000:136–137). The foregoing quotations are the words of two late-twentieth-century literate persons occupying important positions and having available to them expert advice and boundless sources of information. They are not preColumbian or serfdom-bound Medieval illiterates isolated in their own time and place, thereby barred from the knowledge of the modern world. With respect to the latter quotation, I am reminded of Walter Ong’s (1982: 53) thought when contemplating a similar rote reaction to new situations by a young illiterate peasant in the former Soviet Union: “There is no way to refute the world of primary orality.

As discussed by Philip Salzman (2002), some current versions of these useful questions are carried to such extremes that they imply or openly assert the impossibility of objective knowledge of other people or other times. The goal of objectivity, by this view, should be abandoned in favor of a “perspectivist” surrender that ultimately relegates observation and understanding to musings in self-contemplation: the “Other” is not what it is, it is only what we think it is. The concreteness of the “Other,” by this strategy, becomes lost in the process of self-interrogation.

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