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Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology



Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology & the Ancient World
Brown University
Box 1837 / 60 George Street
Providence, RI 02912
Telephone: (401) 863-3188
Fax: (401) 863-9423
[email protected]

Taking Hodder Further

Response to Discussion Week 5: Oct 6. Çatalhöyük: social memory and everyday performance

Other responses of the week

Keffie Feldman Posted: October 20, 2006. Friday.

In two recent articles, Ian Hodder examines daily performance, spectacle, and social memory at Chatal Hoyuk. (Hodder and Cessford. 2004. “Daily Practice and Social Memory at CatalHoyuk”, and Hodder 2006. “The Spectacle of Daily Performance at CatalHoyuk”) His basic contention is that constructed space shapes daily practice, and through daily practice social memory is “embodied”. He argues that people were “socialized into special roles and rules in Central Anatolia and Catalhoyuk by two primary mechanisms: first through the bodily repetition of practices and routines in the house, and second through the construction of memories in which the bodily practices were embedded” (Hodder 2004: p. 20) He focuses on the house as the primary locus of daily performance and sites the house as an important site of economic, social, and ritual activity, and therefore the main mechanism for creating social rules. He supports his argument by citing specific examples recovered from his archaeological excavations at CatalHoyuk, such as the positioning of hearths, burials, and art consistently at the same cardinal directions. (Hodder 2004: p.22, 23) The consistent positioning of features within the house would direct daily movement around the domestic space, and this construction of social reproduction would work to ingrain social memory. However, he warns against looking for universalized bodies with universalized responses, but acknowledges that bodily practice needs to be situated within specific historical and cultural contexts (Hodder 2006: p. 84) He also asserts that when looking at performance we should try not to figure what the performance means, but rather what makes it meaningful. (Hodder 2006: p. 84)

I believe Hodder offers us some critically important guidelines for looking at space, daily performance, and the construction of social rules and social memory. Hodder’s argument for a phenomenological approach to the production of social rules and social memory is, I think, very helpful. I believe the value of Hodder’s perspective is that it can be applied trans-culturally and trans-historically (but, of course, one must consider the context in each particular case). This is because most human societies construct spaces in which they carry out daily performances, and human societies have social rules. The interesting question is how, or whether, these two are related.

A contemporary, and very mundane example of space constructing daily performance and communicating social rules is one which I experience daily. I have to cross the main quad on Brown’s campus to get to class several days of the week. The quad has very well manicured grass, with paths of concrete running along both sides and several criss-crossing the space. Although taking the concrete paths is not the most direct route to where I am going, because I know the relative properties of grass and concrete, I walk along the paths so as not to trample the grass. In this way my bodily practices are dictated by the space, and in this performance of walking to class I learn that I am not supposed to walk on the grass. The other people at Brown also use the concrete paths to cross the quad. In this way we all share the collective knowledge that we should not walk on the grass, and therefore our daily practice of walking across the quad is shaped by the constructed space. I will then be able to apply this lesson I have learned about walking on concrete paths instead of manicured grass to contexts other than brown. This daily practice has helped me embody a social value for aesthetically pleasing grass, which is now part of my social memory.

Who put the paths there? I do not know exactly. What I do know is that the paths are there because someone does not want me to walk on the grass, which communicates to me the value of manicured grass at Brown. This then brings up the issue of resistance; I can choose to walk on the grass if I want. How might one see resistance to the rules established in constructed space within the archaeological record?

Hodder’s analysis of daily practice by the construction of space at CatalHoyuk it is centered on the house, which probably affected up to ten familial members. Although I don’t believe it has been conclusively proven, it is likely the people of CatalHoyuk constructed their own domestic spaces. What about in more stratified and specialized societies where individual members are not in control of producing their space? When we are not in control of creating the spaces in which we play out our daily performances, in whose interest are these spaces created?