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Identity and Social Transformation in the Prehispanic Cibola World – Matthew Peeples

Note: This post refers to an event that took place on May 21, 2012.

Since the early days of anthropological archaeology in the Southwest, archaeologists have been fundamentally interested in relating rapid changes in settlement and material culture to transformations in cultural identity. In this talk, using data from the Cibola region of the U.S. Southwest, I examine changes in the nature and scale of social identification across a major period of demographic and social upheaval (A.D. 1150-1325) marked by a shift from dispersed hamlets, to clustered villages, and eventually, to a small number of large nucleated towns. This transformation in settlement organization entailed a fundamental reconfiguration of the relationships among households and communities across much of the Southwest.

This study draws on contemporary social theory focused on political mobilization and social movements to investigate how changes in the process of social identification can influence the potential for such widespread and rapid transformations. This framework suggests that social identification can be divided into two primary modes; relational identification based on networks of interaction among individuals, and categorical identification based on active expressions of affiliation with social roles or groups to which one can belong. Importantly, trajectories of social transformations are closely tied to the interrelationships between these two modes of identification. By documenting changes in the nature of relational and categorical connections through time, I argue that the rapid social changes occurring in the Cibola region were governed by similar dynamics to well-documented contemporary social transformations. These broad similarities have major implications for considerations of the historical ubiquity of social movements in general.