Accepted paper:

Difficulties in Southeast Asian archaeological theory


Rachael Lane (University of Sydney)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the problematic theoretical propositions within Southeast Asian archaeology with the aim of eventually elucidating a viable framework to approach the "remains of lived life" in the archaeological record of the region.

Paper long abstract:

The first half of this paper presents an overview of the theoretical landscape of SE Asian archaeology with an additional critique of the usual approaches to understanding cultural developments in the region. One of the key concerns is the non-correspondence of archaeological data with colonialist and ethnocentric theories and models. Attempts to solve the problem of non-correspondence in SE Asian archaeology is compounded by a general disciplinary concern with archaeology's uncertainty over interpretive strategies, its ambiguous identity (it is not firmly in the sciences or the humanities), and the further problems that exist with categories and concepts, archaeological reasoning and knowledge. Another issue that appears to be directly linked to one of this sessions themes of the "remains of lived life" is the notable lack of theorizing on how archaeological phenomena in SE Asia should relate to humans at the level of human agency or subjectivity. Accordingly, the second part of this paper aims to position SE Asian archaeology in dialogue with North American and British archaeology's attempt to place humans in the archaeological record using various social and anthropic theories. These are usually borrowed from the disciplines of sociology and philosophy and are popularly associated with the likes of Bourdieu and Giddens. The question will be raised as to whether they can add anything to the understanding of lived life in SE Asian archaeological record or would an 'indigenous' theoretical perspective be more beneficial, and perhaps, more ethical.

panel P21
Exploring the Archaeology of Everyday Living in Southeast Asia