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Gender archaeology and archaeology of women. Do we need both?

Whitehouse, R; (2007) Gender archaeology and archaeology of women. Do we need both? In: Hamilton, S and Whitehouse, R and Wright, K, (eds.) Archaeology and Women. (pp. 27-40). Left Coast Press: Walnut Creek, CA.

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This paper discusses the present state and future directions of gender studies in archaeology. I identify two distinctive approaches, characterised here as ‘archaeology of women’ and ‘gender archaeology’ and suggest that, while they have rather different aims and methodologies, both have a role to play in what is still a developing field of study within the discipline of archaeology. The archaeology of women concentrates on making women visible in the archaeological record and reconstructing their roles and experiences in past societies. Gender archaeology is more inclusive, involving men as well as women, masculinity as well as femininity; it focuses on different aspects of gender, including roles, relations, ideologies and identities, as well as the intersection of gender with other categories of social organisation such as age, status and ethnicity. It also examines how gender is constructed, which is understood variously in terms of negotiation, transaction or performance. Gender archaeology is in many ways a more developed approach, less naive and essentialist than the archaeology of women and more in line with post-modern (‘post-processual’) scholarship generally. However, I argue that in archaeology there are dangers in pursuing the more philosophical aspects of gender in the absence of a solid body of work on women in the past, conducted within earlier and theoretically simpler frameworks. While it is important to continue to explore all the ramifications of gender in the past, there is also a case for ‘strategic essentialism,’ assuming that women (and men) existed in the past and that we can and should study their roles, relations and experiences.

Type: Book chapter
Title: Gender archaeology and archaeology of women. Do we need both?
ISBN-13: 978-1-59874-223-7
Keywords: gender archaeology, archaeology of women
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/37782
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