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New Volume of the Archeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association

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Read the new volume of Archeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association on “inalienable wealth” in AnthroSource!

“Inalienable possessions,” as conceptualized by Annette Weiner (1985, 1992), are objects imbued with meaning and value based on the social identity of the original and subsequent owners. They maintain attachment to their owner- even when passed to other individuals- although this attachment may not always be physical. These objects also contain embedded histories and knowledge and legitimate identity and authority. According to Weiner (1985):

The primary value of inalienability, however, is expressed through the power these objects have to define who one is in an historical sense. The object acts as a vehicle for bringing past time into the present, so that the histories of ancestors, titles, or mythological events become an intimate part of a person’s present identity. To lose this claim to the past is to lose part of who one is in the present. In its inalienability, the object must be seen as more than an economic resource and more than an affirmation of social relations (210).

This innovative and exciting volume of the Archeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association (AP3A) emerged from an organized session sponsored by the Archaeology Division of the AAA for the 73rd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA). Session participants and authors were asked to apply Weiner’s concept of “inalienable wealth” to prehistoric cultures in Mesoamerica. The result is a deep reflection on “inalienable wealth” as a theoretical construct that can assist archaeologists- and anthropologists across the four fields- in understanding how artifacts and materials gain value and have been used in specific historical moments “to create, maintain, or destroy identity, hierarchy, and social relations” (Kovacevich and Callaghan 2014:8). In using the concept of “inalienable wealth,” the authors in this volume of AP3A have brought new perspectives and understandings to issues of identity formation, social hierarchy, labor and production, land and social difference in prehistoric Mesoamerica.

Read the Introduction by Brigitte Kovacevich and Michael G. Callaghan here.*

*Content is open and accessible for 30 days through Wiley Online Library.

Citations:

Kovacevich, Brigitte and Michael G. Callaghan
2013     Introduction: Inalienability, Value, and the Construction of Social Difference. AP3A 23(1).

Weiner, Annette
1985     Inalienable Wealth. American Ethnologist 12: 210-227.
1992     Inalienable Possessions: The Paradox of Keeping-while-Giving. Berkeley: University of California Press.

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