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Nick Shepherd

State of the discipline: Science, culture and identity in South African archaeology, 1870-2003

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This article gives an account of the development of archaeology in South Africa in the period 1870-2003, focusing on key formative ideas and contexts. Taking as its theme a Foucauldian notion of 'knowledge construction', it attempts to understand archaeology as a form of social practice rooted in broader political and economic contexts. Two periods were especially important in the emergence of South African archaeology. The first was the period 1923-1948, coinciding with the local career of John Goodwin, which saw the institutionalisation of archaeology and the emergence of a specific, local conception of prehistory under the political patronage of J. C. Smuts. During these years the study of prehistory played a key role in an emergent South African national identity. The second was the period of the late 1960s and early 1970s which saw the re-emergence of the discipline following a time of comparative neglect, as part of the general cultural apparatus of a modernising apartheid state. Finally, a detailed account is given of developments post-1994, including figures for student enrolments at major teaching institutions, a survey of archaeological curricula and a survey of grants from the National Research Foundation. If (as I argue) the impulse of the discipline in periods of social transformation has been to take shelter behind hard versions of science and culture, then the challenge for a post-apartheid archaeology lies in developing socially engaged and reflexive forms of theory and practice able to speak to the complexity of contemporary circumstances.

OriginalsprogEngelsk
TidsskriftJournal of Southern African Studies
Vol/bind29
Nummer4
Sider (fra-til)823-844
Antal sider22
ISSN0305-7070
DOI
StatusUdgivet - dec. 2003

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