Bodies of evidence on prehistoric Cyprus

Bodies of evidence on prehistoric Cyprus
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  Cambridge Archaeological Journal 7:2 (1997), pp. 183-204 Bodies of Evidence on Prehistoric Cyprus A. Bernard Knapp & Lynn Meskell This study takes as its point of departure recent discussions in sociology, anthropology,queer theory, and masculinist and feminist studies on the contextual constitution of sex and gender, with its surrounding debates. We explore the adoption and implications of thebody as a phenomenon in archaeology and its connection to power-centred theories. As a case study, we use a body of data comprised of prehistoric Cypriot igurines  (Chalcolithicand Bronze Age), and suggest that an archaeology of individuals may be possible inprehistoric contexts. In conclusion, we suggest that archaeologists move beyond rigid, binary categorizations and attempt to prioritize specific discourses of difference byimplementing constructions of self or identity. In the past few decades the body has become centralin discussions of society and selfhood in humanitiesresearch. During the same time, that discourse hasreinscribed our conceptual categories ranging fromsex to science, from institutions to the individual,from domination to dijferance, and from power to thebody politic (Meskell 1996, 1). In this article we ex-plore the somatization of archaeology by examiningthe intellectual lineage of body debates and by con-sidering the problems and potential of employingthe body as a central theme. We begin with an his-torical overview, followed by recent social and bio-logical accounts of sex and gender, and currentcritiques of Cartesian authority and social con-structionism. The article then outlines the way inwhich the body has been embraced by archaeology,its linkage to the work of Michel Foucault and theconcomitant predilection for power. We argue thatsuch a discourse downplays embodied experience,individuality and agency. As a case study, we assesspossible constructions of self and identity throughthe medium of Cypriot figurines and modelled fig- ures, attempt to examine these items from a perspec-tive which does not privilege sex, and consider whyrepresentations of individuals, or the characteristicsof individuals, which seem to become apparent inlate Chalcolithic-Prehistoric Bronze Age Cyprus (c.3000-1700 BC). Theorized bodiesFor philosophers, the body has been a key theoreti-cal space from Classical antiquity to the present.Plato (Kratylos) expounded the belief that a person'sspiritual being was trapped in the body. Aristotlewent further and sought to distinguish matter, orbody, from form. With respect to reproduction, hemaintained that the mother provided the formless,passive matter which was given shape, contour, andspecific attributes by the father (Grosz 1994, 5). Al-ready in the western tradition, the binarization ofthe sexes (male=mind and female=body) and thedichotomization of knowledge had taken hold. Thenotion of distinct spheres for the mind and body hadas its corollary a division between reason and emo-tion. The Pythagoreans established a list of princi-ples associated with determinate form and goodness,and their inferior opposites which were irregular,formless, and negative (Lloyd 1993). According toLloyd, this tradition can be traced through the majorthinkers of Western philosophy — Augustine,Aquinas, Bacon, Descartes, Hume, Rousseau, Kant,and Hegel. Each perpetuated a form of hierarchicalbifurcation: mind and body, reason and emotion,male and female.Though this view prevails within mainstreambody literature, Bynum (1995) has challenged it, 183  A. Bernard Knapp & Lynn Meskellpositing that many current analyses share a particu-lar characterization of Western philosophy whichshe regards as inaccurate — at least in its readings ofmedieval thought. She argues that to consider the vast sweep of Western thought from Plato to Descartes as dualist and misogynist is to ignore the considerable contributions and the shift in percep-tions that occurred in the European Middle Ages(Bynum 1995,6). Citing philosophers or thinkers suchas Origen, Aquinas and Avicenna, she shows thatbody and soul were never seen as entities separatefrom the concept of personhood itself, nor did Cartesian dualism hold sway as previously argued.Furthermore, the very roots of modern notions of a particular embodied self can be directly traced to the later Middle Ages. For hundreds of years a personwas perceived as a unity, a particular individual,and a 'yearning stuff, thus influencing the course ofWestern tradition to the present (Bynum 1995, 33). Conceptualizations then, as now, were multiple and multivalent, with our many pasts helping to shapeour many presents.The naturerculture divide nonetheless pervadesthe literature on the body, and has been traced di- rectly to Descartes and his essential separation of mindand body, wherein the former is privileged over the latter. Descartes completely transformed the rela-tionship between reason and method which had beencentral to the intellectual tradition since the time of Socrates (Lloyd 1993,40). In his metaphysical doctrine,for which he is most notorious, Descartes radicallyseparated mind frombody.According to Lloyd (1993,50), 'his pervasive theory of mind provided supportfor a powerful version of the sexual division of men-tal labour. Women have been assigned responsibil-ity for that realm of the sensuous which the CartesianMan of Reason must transcend, if he is to have trueknowledge of things/ Women's task then is to pre- serve the intermingling of mind and body which po- tentially offers solace and relaxation to men. Theyare to be the bearers of soft emotions and sensuous- ness, having a lesser presence of reason and a differ-ent kind of intellectual character.Indeed much of post-structuralist philosophy,sociology, and anthropology still centres on the bodyas a theoretical space. The body has become the siteof mapped and inscribed social relations, specifi-cally regarding displays and negotiations of poweras well as gender dynamics. This continuing West-ern preoccupation with exteriority has been amplycritiqued and theorized in the social sciences (McNay 1992; Shilling 1993; Grosz 1994; Cranny-Francis 1995),yet is often adopted wholesale, as in archaeology,with little cognizance of the inherent structures and trajectories that we have acquired. A false dichotomysuch as this has serious implications for any (re)construction of individuals in an archaeologicalpast and, more specifically, for feminist scholars who are attempting to challenge the inherently phallocentricmodes of thinking within Western intellectualism. Cyprus - Chronological PeriodsRevised Early Prehistoric Akrotiri PhaseKhirokitia CultureSotira CultureErimi Culture Late Prehistoric PreBAPreBA 1 PreBA 2 ProBAProBA 1 ProBA 2 ProBA 3 TraditionalNeolithic-Chalcolithic'proto-Neolithic'?Aceramic Neolithic?Gap?Ceramic NeolithicChalcolithic (Philia-Early/Middle Cypriot)Philia Culture (PCU)Early/Middle Cypriot (Early/Middle Cypriot) (Middle-Late Cypriot)(MCIII-LCI)(LCII)(LC III) PreBA = Prehistoric Bronze AgeProBA = Protohistoric Bronze Age *BC dates in parentheses indicate approximate, 'historical', calendar dates.C-14 dates BC CalBC dates7900-2300 8600-?7900-? 8600-?7500-5200/4900 8200-5800/55005200-4900 5800-55004900-3200 5500-39003200-2300 3900-24002300-1550 2500-17002300-2500-20002300- 2000-1700(2000-1700 BC)* (1700-1000 DC)* (1700-1400 BC)* (1400-1200 BC)* (1200-1000 BC)* 184  Bodies of Evidence on Prehistoric CyprusSexed bodiesWe would like to preface this section with a briefsurvey of the various positions now proffered byfeminist and masculinist theorists alike, especiallysince there appears to be some convergence on is-sues involving the body. First we consider feminismsince it predates, and to a large degree influenced,the development of masculinist theory. We empha-size at the outset that the term 'masculinist' shouldnot be conflated with androcentrism or male oppres-sion; rather it is an engendered concept within thesocial sciences which seeks to formulate the mascu-line subject (Knapp 1997).Following Grosz (1994, 14-18), there are threemajor reactions to the body within the feministschema, ranging from elevating and prioritizing thefemale body in all its specificities, to social con-structionist positions, to a position of sexual differ-ence which is both lived and experiential (Gatens1996). Each group sees the female body as central toits sociopolitical agenda. The first group of feministstake it to the extreme position of privilege (e.g. deBeauvoir, Firestone, Leclerc, Starhawk, Eisler). Theyrely on an essentialist framework, employingbiologism and naturalism. Such positions have beenheavily critiqued for their explicit politics of exclu-sion and their failing to accord cultural, temporal andindividual variabilities (Cranny-Francis 1995,1-21).At the constructionist end of the spectrum thefemale body is bounded and inscribed by social con-straints (e.g. Mitchell, Barrett, Kristeva, Chodorow,Marxist and psychoanalytic feminists). Social con-structionism, which originated in the critical positiv-ist tradition of post-enlightenment social philosophy,also tends to deny or downplay agency and indi-vidual experience, and will be discussed further be-low. The third group, feminists of difference, arguethat the body is not passively mapped, but is inter-Woven with, and is constitutive of, systems of mean-ing, signification and representation (e.g. Irigaray,Spivak, Gatens, Butler, Cixous, Schor, and Wittig).On the one hand it is a signifying and signified body;on the other it is an object of systems of social coer-cion, legal inscription, and sexual and economic ex-change (Grosz 1994, 18; Mallet 1995, 82-4; see alsoMeskell 1996). The body is thus regarded as the po-litical, social and cultural object par excellence, ratherthan the raw, passive body overlaid and inscribedwith culture.In turning to recent masculinist reactions tothe trajectory of Western intellectualism outlinedabove—which situates women in terms of corporealityand emotionality and men as the inheritors of mind,reason and cultural production — one may definemany points of convergence with feminist philoso-phies. For example, masculinist theory is in harmonywith recent feminist critiques of sex, gender, and thebody (e.g. the recent feminist works of Butler 1990a,b; 1993; Grosz 1994; 1995; and Moore 1994).Masculinist theory has critiqued and challengedmany of the same modes of thinking which havefaced feminism, and for the most part developed thesame arguments from a masculine perspective. Forexample, Cartesianism presents the same sort of prob-lems for men as it does for women. Within Westerntraditions of philosophy and social theory, the bodyand the emotive dimension are devalued and madesubjective concerns of personal life, since emotionsand feelings cannot be validated as sources of knowl-edge. The particular relationship between masculin-ity and modernity has entailed a separation of reasonfrom emotion, leaving men with an unreasonableform of reason (Seidler 1994). Thus Cartesianism,the mind:body split, has had deleterious effects onmale as well as female constructions of self. Thisessential separation from our corporeal selves, andour subsequent disembodied, non-experiential analy-ses must be seen as problematic at both personal anddisciplinary levels.Self-reflexive men are also grappling with theimplications of biological reductionism and socialconstructionism. The former sees the body as a natu-ral machine which produces gender difference, po-larized by the latter which likens the body to a passivelandscape onto which social symbolism is mapped.Connell (1995, 47) is quick to provide evidence forcross-cultural and historical diversity for gender (hispreferred term), thus challenging the essentialist sta-tus quo: situations where homosexuality is acceptedmajority practice; situations where men are not nor-mally aggressive; and situations where mothers donot predominate in child care. Such observationschallenge contemporary essentialist positions as wellas transhistorical or transcultural premises. Connelltoo adheres to Laqueur's (1990) socially situatedmodel, arguing that social process may distort, con-tradict, complicate, deny or modify bodily difference.This process may define one gender (androgynousfashion), two (Hollywood), three (North Americannative cultures), four (European urban culture afterhomosexuals began to be sorted out, that is, after theeighteenth century), or a whole spectrum of frag-ments, variations or trajectories (Connell 1995,52).Masculinist theory also challenges socialconstructionism (Connell 1995, 50-52). Bodies cannot 185  A. Bernard Knapp & Lynn Meskellbe understood as a neutral medium of social prac- tice: materiality matters. Here too there is a desire toreconstruct the embodied individual, not merely ageneric ontological category. This has been illustratedrecently by anthropological studies which seek toexplore the range of individual experience on thebasis of age, class, status, ethnicity, profession andsexual orientation from transhistorical and cross-cul-tural data (see contributions in Brod & Kaufman1994; Cornwall & Lindisfarne 1994; Hearn & Morgan1990). An embodied body represents, and is, a livedexperience where the interplay of irreducible natu-ral, social, cultural and psychical phenomena arebrought to fruition through each individual's reso-lution of external structures, embodied experienceand choice: this dialectical position potentially cir-cumvents the determinism associated with extremesocial constructionism, Cartesianism and essentialism.Part of the central dilemma in discourses on thebody must be seen as terminological. Few scholarsspecifically define their terms of reference and thuswe cannot assume consensus on even basic designa- tions. The terms sex, gender, sexuality, gender relations and social relations are falsely assumed to have com-mon meaning to all groups; in fact they are used in anumber of quite distinct ways (Moore 1994, 6), andthus can never refer to pure concepts.In archaeology there have been at least twostrident reactions to the concepts of sex and gender,both fundamentally flawed. The first reaction main-tains that the two entities are quite distinct, with sexrepresenting the externalized manifestation of a bio-logical given and gender representing a socially con-stituted elaboration overlaid on the former. However,these two fundamental concepts may in fact be simi-larly constituted (see also Yates 1993; Nordbladh &Yates 1990). The second reaction has been to leaveboth terms untheorized with gender and sex col-lapsed in on each other so that the resultant exami-nations simply analyze predetermined categories ofmales and females as broad, but dichotomous group- ings. This suggests that a form of essentialism wasoperative in the past, and further implies that such asituation exists in contemporary contexts. Such aposition regards woman, or man for that matter, as a'given' which is transhistorical and transcultural, andconstant over the trajectories of age, status and/orethnicity: the contributions of recent feminist theoryand more particularly, masculinist theory, challengesuch a stance (see, for example, Butler 1993; Brod &Kaufman 1994; Cornwall & Lindisfarne 1994; Connell 1995; Grosz 1994; Moore 1994; Knapp 1997).Taken to an extreme logic, then, sex:gendercould be counted amongst binary separations suchas mind:body that have preoccupied Western intel-lectualism over the centuries. Both Laqueur (1990)and Butler (1990a) have proposed that sex and gen-der are socially constructed categories and thus simi-larly constituted. As a practitioner of queer theory,Butler (1990b, 6-9; 1993,1) asserts that it is no longertenable to advocate the existence of prediscursivesex which acts as the stable referent on top of whichthe cultural construction of gender proceeds. Fur-thermore, we cannot assume that biological sexeverywhere provides the universalist basis for thecultural categories male and female: consider thenow widely published and theorized case of the Na-tive American 'two-spirit' (formerly berdache [sic]: see Jacobs 1994,7). Apart from this well documentedexample, several recent anthropological case-studiesillustrate similar groups in Polynesia, the Balkans,India and New Guinea (papers in Herdt 1993; seealso Broch-Due et al. 1993). Herdt (1993,53) believesthis plethora of new studies relates to an opening upof the field, with studies from all sides challengingthe assumptive structure of sexual dimorphism andthe hegemony of the scientific paradigm. Sex, as faras we understand the term within western discourse,is something which differentiates between bodies,whilst gender has been defined as the set of variablesocial constructions placed upon those differenti-ated bodies. Unfortunately, this very formula mayobscure rather than clarify when it comes to cross-cultural analyses of sex, sexual difference and gen-der (Moore 1994,14).Conceptions of sex can be discussed from philo-sophical and biological perspectives, as we have tried to present here. Beginning with some ideas presentedin Deleuze & Guattari (1987), and discussed initiallyin archaeology by Yates (1993), it may also be possi-ble to circumvent traditional binarization by adoptingthe notion of rhizomes as a means of conceptualiz-ing sex. This provides an alternative way of viewingsex and sexuality which is fluid over the trajectoriesof time, context, culture, age, etc. From such a stand-point, an individual's sex would not have to con-form to a predetermined definition or result inspecific behaviours; instead sex and sexuality arepositioned upon a spectrum unbounded by pre-discursive categories. The spectrum consists ofmyriad positions which an individual may assumeand live out. 'Sexuality brings into play too great adiversity of conjugated beings; these are like n sexes.Sexuality is the production of a thousand sexes ...'(Deleuze & Guattari 1987,278). From a biological per-spective, it has become commonplace for geneticists186  to talk beyond the binarisms of XX (female) and XY(male); to include XY females, as well as XX, XXY,XXXY and XXXXY individuals with a male pheno-type,or XXY hermaphrodites; and to use terms like'intersexuality' (Mittwoch 1992, 471; Schafer 1995, 280). Recent research suggests that chromosomalmales can develop fully as females or that chromo-somal females may develop as phenotypic males; insome cases features of both develop partially orwholly, presenting ambiguous genitalia (Schafer 1995, 275). Given this evidence, it is impossible tomake a binary genetic classification on the basis ofthe Y chromosome, since it cannot always explain anindividual's set of sexual organs. This imperfect bi-narization has prompted another set of classifica-tions to account for the range of individual variation. So, what exactly is sex? First there is geneticsex, which is dependent upon the presence or ab-sence of a Y chromosome (more precisely, of the Ychromosome SRY). Genetic sex says nothing aboutthe phenotype, or appearance, of the individual: it issimply the chromosomal or genetic sex. The type ofreproductive organs an individual develops — ova-ries or testes — defines phenotypic sex. Abnormaldevelopment can occur, usually as a result of hor-monal problems, and the reproductive organs candevelop as a mixture of male and female, ordevelopmentally somewhere in between. This is thesituation termed 'intersex', which is a biological de-scription of the internal and external genitalia, andwhich has no bearing on chromosomal sex and mayor may not be important for 'gender assignment'. Ifthe external genitalia are ambiguous then surgerymay be required to create a sex phenotype decidedupon medically (Schafer pers. comm.). That assign-ment has caused considerable controversy, sincethose affected often consider themselves to be a thirdsex. Corrective surgery to eradicate such 'neutrality' isthus seen as a form of mutilation. These new geneticstudies deal with the variety of distinct sexual phe-notypes, which is perhaps the concrete biologicalmanifestation for the metaphor of the spectrum pre-viously discussed. Individuals cannot be divided sim-ply into binary groupings, because there are so manyvariations on this theme, all of which are experiencedin living bodies and expressed by individual beings.Moreover the teleological taxonomies separat-ing nature from culture, and the biological from thesocial, are now being collapsed. It can be demon-strated that social factors may affect the biology ofhuman populations. Again the body is brought intoplay because of its privileged position as the nexusof individual and society — one that can be reducedto neither physical autonomy nor social text(Worthman 1995,600). For example, social improve-ments in child care have been paralleled by reduc-tions in the age of reproductive maturation, a riskfactor for breast and perhaps prostate cancer. In ad-dition, altered physical activity, fertility patterns, andbreastfeeding practices related to changing work pat-terns, gender relations, and technologies also increaserisk of reproductive cancer (Worthman 1995, 608).There are other examples of bodily change as a re-sult of such biosocial interactions. Perhaps even ourcurrent interest in this topic stems from shifting ordiversifying patterns of biological sex differentiation,driven by social transformations, altering matura-tion rates, chemical exposures, gestational environ-ments and adult gonadal activity (full discussion inWorthman 1995). Thus, the boundaries between na-ture and culture, the biological and social sciences,and the individual and society have never been soequivocal.When archaeologists refer to sex they in factrefer to a complex constellation of expressions andexperiences. On one level there is the social con-struction of biological sex, with all its variable mani-festations. Then there is the matter of how anindividual chooses to manifest that defined sex, usu-ally referred to as gender: they may present them-selves to society in a number of ways, according toexperience, embodiment and socio-cultural factors.Such a 'performance' represents a second level (see R. Morris 1995). Even this, however, does not alwaysdefine adequately sexual behaviour and experience.Thus an individual may be an XX female, and mayperform in daily contexts as a female, but if shechooses not to conform to a heterosexual lifestylethen there is an added sexual dimension, that ofdifference, which needs to be considered. Temporal-ity should also be acknowledged, since individualsexual identity is fluid and may change over thecourse of one's life. To date, the concept of genderhas not been adequate to this task (see Gatens 1996, 10). In sum, archaeology needs to account for therange of discourses on offer encompassing biology,socio-cultural studies, feminist and masculinist phi-losophy, and sexual difference. Sex:gender is nolonger a clear-cut paradigm which we are free tooverlay onto all archaeological analyses.Archaeological bodiesIn view of the above persective, it is now expedientto examine the way in which our own discipline hasappropriated the body motif. Archaeology has come 187
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