The Archaeology of Institutional Life

The Archaeology of Institutional Life


Edited by April M. Beisaw, Edited by James G. Gibb, Contributions by Sherene Baugher, Contributions by Eleanor Conlin Casella, Contributions by James G. Gibb, Contributions by Susan Piddock, Contributions by April M. Beisaw, Contributions by David Bush, Contributions by Lu Ann de Cunzo, Contributions by Lois M. Feister

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  • Publisher: The University of Alabama Press
  • Format: Hardback | 288 pages
  • Dimensions: 152mm x 236mm x 24mm | 581g
  • Publication date: 22 March 2009
  • Publication City/Country: Alabama
  • ISBN 10: 081731637X
  • ISBN 13: 9780817316372
  • Edition: 1
  • Sales rank: 1,066,374

Product description

Institutions pervade social life. They express community goals and values by defining the limits of socially acceptable behavior. Institutions are often vested with the resources, authority, and power to enforce the orthodoxy of their time. But institutions are also arenas in which both orthodoxies and authority can be contested. Between power and opposition lies the individual experience of the institutionalized. Whether in a boarding school, hospital, prison, almshouse, commune, or asylum, their experiences can reflect the positive impact of an institution or its greatest failings. This interplay of orthodoxy, authority, opposition, and individual experience are all expressed in the materiality of institutions and are eminently subject to archaeological investigation.A few archaeological and historical publications, in widely scattered venues, have examined individual institutional sites. Each work focused on the development of a specific establishment within its narrowly defined historical context; e.g., a fort and its role in a particular war, a schoolhouse viewed in terms of the educational history of its region, an asylum or prison seen as an expression of the prevailing attitudes toward the mentally ill and sociopaths. In contrast, this volume brings together twelve contributors whose research on a broad range of social institutions taken in tandem now illuminates the experience of these institutions. Rather than a culmination of research on institutions, it is a landmark work that will instigate vigorous and wide-ranging discussions on institutions in Western life, and the power of material culture to both enforce and negate cultural norms.

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Author information

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

Review quote

"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"