Agency theory and its uses in archaeology
Download
1 / 16

Agency Theory and its Uses in Archaeology - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


  • 718 Views
  • Updated On :

Individuals and Action:. Agency Theory and its Uses in Archaeology. Isaac Ullah. Outline. What is agency? The early history of the idea. Bourdieu’s practice theory and agency . Giddens’ structuration theory and agency. Agency redefined for archaeology. Uses of agency in archaeology.

Related searches for Agency Theory and its Uses in Archaeology

loader
I am the owner, or an agent authorized to act on behalf of the owner, of the copyrighted work described.
capcha
Download Presentation

PowerPoint Slideshow about 'Agency Theory and its Uses in Archaeology' - daniel_millan


An Image/Link below is provided (as is) to download presentation

Download Policy: Content on the Website is provided to you AS IS for your information and personal use and may not be sold / licensed / shared on other websites without getting consent from its author.While downloading, if for some reason you are not able to download a presentation, the publisher may have deleted the file from their server.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - E N D - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Presentation Transcript
Agency theory and its uses in archaeology l.jpg

Individuals and Action:

Agency Theory and its Uses in Archaeology

Isaac Ullah


Outline l.jpg
Outline

  • What is agency?

  • The early history of the idea.

  • Bourdieu’s practice theoryand agency.

  • Giddens’ structuration theory and agency.

  • Agency redefined for archaeology.

  • Uses of agency in archaeology.

  • Why use agency in archaeology

  • How does agency fit with other archaeological theory?

  • Conclusions, or “What do we do now?”


What is agency l.jpg
What is agency?

  • At the simplest level, agency can be defined as the actions of individuals, and the consequences of those actions.

  • However, this definition is not amenable to an “agency theory”-- it is more a description of a “world view” than a theory.

  • This definition is unacceptable for archaeologists because it can do no more than “inform” our thoughts as we interpret the archaeological record.


A quick history of the idea of agency l.jpg
A quick history of the idea of agency

  • Ideas about personhood, volition, self determination, and the nature of conciousness can be traced to Greek philosophy, especially Aristotle.

  • These were brought back to the forefront during the Enlightenment of the 18th century.

  • These ideas were incorporated into Structuralism and Functionalism as the microscale decisions of individuals which were direct consequences of the macroscale structure.


A quick history of the idea of agency5 l.jpg
A quick history of the idea of agency

  • Modern agency theory was developed through the works of Bourdieu and Giddens in the late 1970’s through the 1980’s

  • Let us take a closer look at the thoughts of these two writers before continuing.


Bourdieu l.jpg

Doxa

Doxa is behavior adopted through repetition, and conserved through its material expression.

It is behavior so thoroughly routinized that it cannot be considered agency.

This is related to his account of habitus as a set of durable dispositions arising from shared motivations and life histories.

Agency

Agency lies within the ability of the individual to comprehend the limits of doxa and their will to break out of these limits.

Agency is a meaningless concept without the background of doxa.

Bourdieu


Bourdieu s practice theory l.jpg
Bourdieu’s practice theory

  • Practice is anything people do.

  • Individuals conduct their daily practices in both intentional strategic ways and in routinized un/pre-conscious ways.

  • Individuals are aware of the rules by which they should conduct their day to day lives, and use that knowledge to inform their everyday interactions.

  • Practice was ruled more by doxa in the past than it is now, or at least, we lose resolution of agency the farther back into the past we look.


Giddens l.jpg

Duality of Structure

Agency is both structured, and reproduces and revitalizes the structure. This happens through time.

Unintended consequences of actions modify future intended actions.

This is the basis of his “theory of structuration”.

Practical Consciousness

It is a preconscious way to “go on in the world”, and is basically the same as Bourdieu’s habitus and doxa.

Monitoring of action

Individuals constantly monitor their actions. They are knowledgeable and conscious of much of what they do, but they may not do things purposively. They sometimes do things without intending to do them, and things they do intend to do have unintended consequences.

Giddens


A graphical representation of giddens idea of structuration l.jpg
A graphical representation of Giddens’ idea of structuration.

The agent

Unacknowledged

conditions of

action

Unintended

consequences of

action

reflexive monitoring of action

rationalization of action

motivation of action

The effect

of the agent

on “structure”

The “structure”

After Giddens 1984


How can we use agency in archaeology l.jpg
How can we use agency in archaeology? structuration.

  • We can use Bourdieu’s concept of doxa with a fair degree of ease in archaeology both because of its intrinsic materiality, and its high visibility due to the nature of its repetition which compounds patterns.

  • If we can identify doxa in the archaeological record, we then have the social and material backdrop through which agents moved and interacted.

  • Change in doxa through time is a product of agency. If we study doxa diachronically, then we can make inferences about agency.


How can we use agency in archaeology11 l.jpg
How can we use agency in archaeology? structuration.

  • Giddens’ structuration is harder to find in the archaeological record, but it provides an engine (through unintended consequences of action) for technological change.

  • It is improbable to find the unintended consequences of agency archaeologically.

  • It is, however, probable to find the intended acts that were consequently prompted by those unintended consequences.

  • Focusing attention on “non-normative” instances in the archaeological record can both tell us what the practical consciousness was, and reveals what might be the result of individual action.


Why should we use agency in archaeology l.jpg
Why should we use agency in archaeology? structuration.

  • Agency gives us an alternative to the ecosystem and the economic approaches of processual archaeology.

  • It does not require humans to act rationally or optimally.

  • It takes higher level social structure into account with out determinism.

  • It takes individual action into account without a return to individualist ideas.


How agency fits with other theories l.jpg
How agency fits with other theories. structuration.

  • Marxism: Conflict between classes (or groups of individuals) is the key behind Marxist social change. Agency theory provides a means of explaining how individuals and groups can gain or lose social power within a given structure helps explain the idea of conflict as a conscious choice.

  • Gender Archaeolgy: Agency is important for gendered archaeology because it recognizes the importance of individual action within a given structure. An individual’s place in the structure affects the way they see and respond to the perceived “rules of daily life”. In this way, agency theory allows for gender differences in these conscious decision-making processes.


How agency fits with other theories14 l.jpg
How agency fits with other theories. structuration.

  • Cultural transmission: Agency has a place in theories of biased cultural transmission. These theories explicitly allow for individual experimentation, decision-making, and choice.


So what do we do with agency now l.jpg
So what do we do with agency now? structuration.

  • Agency stands now at the verge of becoming formalized theory in archaeology.

  • We must do more than simply pay homage to Bourdieu and Giddens, cite knowledge of agency, and then continue on as before.

  • If agency is to do more than simply inform archaeology, then it must change the way we do archaeology in the same sense as the “New Archaeology” did.

  • To do this we need more than just rereadings of Bourdieu and Giddens.


So what do we do with agency now16 l.jpg
So what do we do with agency now? structuration.

  • We need an archaeologically specific agency theory determined from archaeological work, and we need to develope archaeologically specific methodology for finding agency in the archaeological record.

  • We need to go beyond simply demonstrating instances of agency in archaeological context.

  • We need start to using agency theory to help clarify issues of technology, material culture, politics, power, intentionality, social definition, and world view.


ad