On discourse and materiality: personhood in the Neolithic of the Isle of Man


Fowler, Christopher John (1999) On discourse and materiality: personhood in the Neolithic of the Isle of Man. University of Southampton, Faculty of Arts, School of Humanities, Doctoral Thesis , 255pp.

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Description/Abstract

This research project takes a fresh look at the Neolithic archaeology of the Isle of Man,
using that material to evaluate a number of themes in contemporary archaeology. The
theme of personhood in prehistory is most central to the study. This project discusses the
prevalent interpretative schemes which archaeologists use to understand prehistoric people,
prehistoric bodies, and prehistoric social relationships. As such it joins with a number of
current themes in archaeological interpretation, most notably; the role ofphenomenology
in inferring past experience; the use of ethnographic analogy in understanding past and
present ideas and experiences of the person and body; the impact of modernity in forming
current ideas of the person (particularly the impact on archaeological thought); and the
relationship between the material world, social activity and discourse, both in modernity
and in prehistory.
Two main types of theory are employed in this project. Both are geared towards
understanding social relationships and the way that personhood is generated through
activity. The first theory is a theory of performativity, adapted from the work of Judith
Butler. The second is a relational approach to personhood, following the work of Marilyn
Strathern and other social and cultural anthropologists. These approaches offer a critical
basis for the re-consideration of past and present bodies, and past and present relations of
personhood. They also provide the basis for reinterpreting past material culture,
architecture and landscapes.
The project situates archaeology as a product of different modern discourses, and
argues that these have shaped the interpretation of past discourses. It sets out to
deconstruct those present discourses, and re-evaluate the role of conflicting experiences of
the self and world in the present. In this approach concepts of archaeological units; the
house; the culture; the individual; the family; are all open to question. They are considered
as types of metonym which condition archaeological interpretation. By refuting the
authority of these metonyms, and by illustrating how they have become sedimented in
archaeological discourse (specifically for the Neolithic on the Isle of Man), the project
explores the possibilities for more context-specific interpretations. Finally, this thesis
offers some new interpretations of Neolithic activity on the Isle of Man, interpretations
which focus more on the social production of self and world than on capturing the
'meaning' of the past. These interpretations are not totalising, but partial, and seek to
explore the possibility of conflict and subversion in Neolithic activities.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information: Digitized via the E-THOS exercise
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Divisions: University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Humanities > Archaeology
ePrint ID: 42323
Date Deposited: 04 Dec 2006
Last Modified: 27 Mar 2014 18:27
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/42323

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