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Anarchistic action: Social organization and dynamics in southern Scandinavia from the Iron Age to the Middle Ages

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A general interest in centralized institutions, state formation and prestige objects has dominated research on social organization and dynamics in Scandinavia from the Late Iron Age to the Middle Ages. Accordingly, a focus on kingly power, aristocratic influence, hierarchies and warrior might has dominated archaeological research designs for the last forty years. Subsequently, other perspectives have been evaded and their significance has been diminished. In this article, I use anarchistic principles as an analytic perspective and present examples of anarchistic actions - network organization, justified leaders and decentralization - drawing on well-known but ambiguous phenomena such as thing sites, the southern Danish defence system Danevirke, and migration and mobility. I suggest a perspective that recognizes resistance, authority and decentralization as well as centralization and institutionalization, allowing a broad spectrum of social engagement and interrelations to influence social organization. I will argue that human intentionality has been overlooked in favour of structures and institutions, and that the power of network organization and decentralization is influential in shaping social organization and dynamics.

Original languageEnglish
JournalArchaeological Dialogues
Pages (from-to)61-73
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019

    Research areas

  • Authority, Community, Decentralization, Network, Power, Resistance, decentralization, authority, community, resistance, network

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