The Material‐Cultural Turn

Dan Hicks

in The Oxford Handbook of Material Culture Studies

Published in print September 2010 | ISBN: 9780199218714
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Archaeology

The Material‐Cultural Turn

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  • History and Theory of Archaeology



The terms ‘material culture’ and ‘material culture studies’ emerged, one after another, during the twentieth century in the disciplines of archaeology and socio-cultural anthropology, and especially in the place of intersection between the two: anthropological archaeology. The purpose of this article, however, is to excavate the idea of ‘material culture studies’, rather than to bury it. Excavation examines the remains of the past in the present and for the present. It proceeds down from the surface, but the archaeological convention is to reverse this sequence in writing: from the past to the present. In the discussion of the history of ideas and theories, a major risk of such a chronological framework is that new ideas are narrated progressively, as paradigm shifts. The main argument of the article relates to the distinctive form taken by the ‘cultural turn’ in British archaeology and anthropology during the 1980s and 1990s.

Keywords: material culture; material culture studies; anthropological archaeology; cultural turn; archaeology; socio-cultural anthropology

Article.  31895 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; History and Theory of Archaeology

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