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The Archaeology of Institutional Life Paperback – March 22, 2009


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Editorial Reviews

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"Editors Beisaw and Gibb draw together 14 contributions by historical archaeologists dealing with some less well-known institutions of US and Australian life. These include one-room schoolhouses, almshouses, prisons (wartime and general), insane asylums, and communal societies. All articles, including introductory contributions dealing more generally with theoretical approaches to these institutions, stress that the institutions must be understood by contextualizing them with what can be drawn from the historical record that, they also demonstrate, proves in all cases to be extraordinarily rich. It is only through the historical background that the archaeologist can develop 'histories' of the artifacts recovered through excavation, often quite limited in number and specific in function. Furthermore, in understanding the institutions themselves, archaeologists must engage the shifting and variable understanding of the relations in capitalistic societies because these "minor" institutions, in many ways, reflect power relations that have been variously interpreted. For professional archaeologists and certainly for college and university libraries with graduate and undergraduate programs; the general public also will find much of interest, but also much that is stiff going. Summing Up: Recommended. All academic levels/libraries."
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“Addressing a long-neglected facet of the archaeology of our modern world—our institutions—this volume reveals the interesting and insightful past of a class of sites that are deeply and inextricably tied to a core aspect of modernity.”—Jamie C. Brandon, Arkansas Archeological Survey



"This volume highlights the use of interdisciplinary approaches and multiple lines of evidence as crucial to understanding the material culture of institutions and the relations of power that they embody. Institutions embody a worldview and the lives of their residents, staff, and community observers are influenced and constrained by the ideology which fashioned it. Researchers of any discipline who share an interest in power relations, childhood, gender studies, community relations, and institutional history will all find food for thought within The Archaeology of Institutional Life."--Journal of Middle Atlantic Archaeology

About the Author

April M. Beisaw is Research Associate, Department of Anthropology, Binghamton University. 
James G. Gibb is an archaeological consultant, Annapolis, Maryland.
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