Retranslating resilience theory in archaeology

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The environmental crisis is rendering increasingly large areas of the planet
inhospitable. As it reaches a tipping point, global warming is initiating
cascades of ecological transformation, mass extinction, and irreversible
damage—all of them increasingly beyond human control. To mitigate this
situation,we need intellectual tools that can call on both the sciences and the
humanities and spark integrated approaches that address deep-time scales.
Archaeology can make a substantial contribution here. This article reviews
the merits and limitations of the resilience concept in archaeology. Despite
its ever-increasing relevance, resilience is still frequently understood within
the framework of positivist approaches and branches of systems thinking that
cannot capture our unfolding predicament and pay too little attention to the
embodied historical asymmetries between more-than-human social worlds.
This review identifies the potential for reformulations of resilience theory
and its attendant concepts within a less positivistic and human-centered conceptual register. New translations of resilience in archaeology pave the way
for more nuanced approaches to concepts of history and their sociopolitical
use, as well as alternative time dynamics of historical change.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAnnual Review of Anthropology
Pages (from-to)195-211
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • adaptive capacity
  • collapse
  • disturbance ecology
  • landesque capital
  • niche construction theory
  • panarchy
  • resilience
  • systems thinking


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