Methodological and analytical challenges in relational archaeologies: a view from the hunting ground
Archaeologies that focus on the recovery of past relational views of the world – a world where such things as non-human agency and animacy played a key role in the formation of the material record – present unique methodological challenges, not the least of which is the development of systematics that link relevant theory and practice. Important strides have been recently made toward the development of relational archaeologies that are both ﬁrmly grounded in modern social theory and open to culturally diverse notions of nature, objects, and the social order (e.g., Alberti and Bray 2009; Brown and Emery 2008; Dobres and Robb 2000; Fogelin 2008; Ingold 2000, 2006; Knappett and Malafouris [eds.] 2008; Meskell 2004; Meskell [ed.] 2005; Miller 2005; Mills and Ferguson 2008; Mills and Walker 2008; Olsen 2010; Pauketat 2012; Preucel 2006; Tilley 1999; Walker 1995, 1999, 2008). The goal of this chapter is to contribute to this growing body of literature by outlining relational systematics as a framework for the analysis of archaeological objects and recovery contexts that is founded on principles of relational ontology. My interest in developing such a framework is two-fold: ﬁrst, 18 years of work with
North American tribes of various ethnicities and with their incredibly rich archaeological and ethnographic records has convinced me that an explicitly analytical approach to relationality can help build intellectual bridges between diﬀerent ontologies as well as do justice to the work and lives of people in the past (Carroll et al. 2004; Murray 2011; Stoﬄe et al. 2001; Zedeño 2000, 2008a, 2008b, 2009). And second, if relational archaeologies are to be embraced and reﬁned by our students, then we have a duty to help them operationalize their research projects so that these may be properly evaluated for funding and job opportunities. The ideas presented here are pragmatic, messy, and tentative, but they nonetheless reinforce the assertion that relational archaeologies can create meaningful connections between past and present ontologies.