Friday, October 29, 2010

"The Comparative Archaeology of Complex Societies"

Yesterday I shipped off the manuscript for an edited volume, The Comparative Archaeology of Complex Societies, to Cambridge University Press. This is from a conference I hosted a couple of years ago at the Amerind Foundation and ASU that explored methods and results of comparative analysis of ancient states and chiefdoms. The volume as a whole emphasizes a scientific approach to the past, and an explicit and rigorous approach to comparison. Actually, I should say "approachES to comparison," since one of our points is that there are a variety of valid comparative methods and approaches to archaeological data, from large-N statistical studies to small-N heavily contextualized comparisons. One method that we do NOT consider a rigorous comparative method is taking a bunch of case studies, by different authors, and throwing them into an edited volume. In this book, there are two types of chapters: most are comparative studies; some are general papers about comparison.

The conference participants came up with a "manifesto" on comparative archaeology, and this is included as chapter 1 of the book. I talked about this in a previous post;  you can see the document here.

I think this may be the only edited volume I have edited (I've done three or four), where I have NOT said to my wife, "Remind me never to do this again!" This was an easier task than most, perhaps because there are fewer authors, and authors who are responsive and responsible. I take a dim view of most edited volumes in archaeology these days, but this CAN be a very good form of publication.

Here is the contents of the new book:

The Comparative Archaeology of Complex Societies
edited by Michael E. Smith
Cambridge University Press (in press).

1. Comparative Archaeology: A Commitment to Understanding Variation
            Group statement by all contributors
2. Approaches to Comparative Analysis in Archaeology
            Michael E. Smith (Arizona State University) and Peter Peregrine (Lawrence University)
3. Comparative Frames for the Diachronic Analysis of Complex Societies: Next Steps
            Gary M. Feinman (Field Museum of Natural History)
4. What It Takes to Get Complex: Goods, Labor, and Ideology as Shared Cultural Ideals at     the Beginning of Sedentism
            Monica L. Smith (University of California, Los Angeles)
5. Challenges for Comparative Study of Early Complex Societies
            Robert D. Drennan (University of Pittsburgh) and Christian E. Peterson (Washington     University in St. Louis)
6. Patterned Variation in Regional Trajectories of Community Growth
            Christian E. Peterson (Washington University in St. Louis) and Robert D. Drennan         (University of Pittsburgh)
7. The Genesis of Monuments in Island Societies
            Michael J. Kolb (Northern Illinois University)
8. Power and Legitimation: Political Strategies, Typology, and Cultural Evolution
            Peter Peregrine (Lawrence University)
9. The Strategies of Provincials in Empires
            Barbara L. Stark and John K. Chance (Arizona State University)
10. Households, Economies, and Power in the Aztec and Inka Imperial Provinces
            Timothy Earle (Northwestern University) and Michael E. Smith (Arizona State Univ.)
11. Low-Density, Agrarian-Based Urbanism: Scale, Power and Ecology
            Roland Fletcher (University of Sydney)
12. Comparative Analysis into the Future
            Michael E. Smith (Arizona State University)


Matt Bandy said...

Hi, Michael:

I am very interested by the topic of your book, and I can't wait to read it. I thought you might be interested in a book I have edited that could almost be a companion volume to yours. It was just published last month by U of A press, and focuses in comparative analysis of village societies. There is less explicit consideration of comparison itself, but there are still many points on which I think the volumes complement one another. Not least of these is the shared participation of Drennan and Petersen, and the fact that both were the outcome of Amerind sympiosia. I'd be interested to know what you thought of it.

Michael E. Smith said...

Matt- I look forward to seeing the book. It is on order at the ASU library.