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Other research product . 2020

Gender Matters : Materialcultural theory of sexgender in mortuary archaeology

Hämäläinen, Riina;
Open Access
Published: 01 Jan 2020
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Country: Finland
The sex/gender model used in biological archaeologies to investigate human remains and past lives is one that relies on the epistemological and ontological separation of sex and gender. Despite this separation the model ends up treating these concepts synonymously due to the taken-for-granted binary nature of sex which in a deterministic manner eventuates into an equally binary gender. This thesis develops a theoretical framework for an archaeological concept of gender that operates without the division, binarism and determinism implicit in the sex/gender model. Pursuing answers to the questions whether it is possible to approach both sex and gender in archaeology in a nonbinary way, and if so, what is an archaeologically feasible alternative, it seeks to devise a method to approach sex and gender in mortuary archaeology beyond the deterministic binary. This thesis is firmly theory-oriented and the writings of various authors within the discipline of archaeology, feminism and queer studies comprise the necessary material. The theories pertaining to the field of feminism are intersectionality and queer theory, which eschew normativity and essentialism and call for gender diversity. Respective to archaeology, the theories influencing this thesis derive from new materialisms to whom the rejection of divisions and dichotomies is characteristic. In this regard, of particular note are the writings of new materialist and feminist theorist Karen Barad. Applying her theories concerning the relational, entangled and mutually constitutive nature of matter and meaning to the topic of sex and gender is central in devising a nonbinary new materialist perspective to be used for the purpose of a more open and inclusive mortuary archaeology. This thesis reveals that the dualistic division between nature and culture has resulted in a separate conceptual development and different strategies of engagement concerning sex and gender. The reason why sex is seen as a biological fact and gender as a cultural meaning proves false when both are affected equally by nature and culture, with the body serving as a nexus-point in which these two forces converge. Applying Barad’s insight reveals that binary sex is not an inherent quality of the body, but one that is produced through a scientific biomedical apparatus. Sex and gender exist in a state of inseparability when undetermined, but when subjected to a determination process, they become mutually exclusive phenomena, thereby disrupting sex-to-gender determinism. In their separate state, both are constitutive of matter and meaning, which is why gender made determined through intersectionality can be used to study gendered understandings through the materiality of the body, exempt from binary views. Analysing a topical bioarchaeological publication concerning a female Viking warrior through the approach that does not depend on the sex binary reveals that a scientific biomedical apparatus is subject to criticism on multiple fronts. Though the case study should be credited with rejecting gender role stereotypes, it demonstrates determinism and binarism as well as homogeneity and universalism in terms of categories. Failing to imagine possibilities beyond a fixed binary also results in the exclusion of alternate ways of knowing and being. The open-ended approach proposed in this thesis not only seeks to grant these possibilities opportunities to exist, but counsels cognisance towards the exclusions apparatuses enact. Embracing speculation, it also holds ambiguity and vagueness to be meaningful qualities pertaining to gendered archaeology. Regarding the mortuary setting, binary sex determinations need not be abandoned, but they should be used alongside this nonbinary approach.

gender, sex, mortuary, archaeology, feminism, new materialisms, theory, speculation, sosiaalinen sukupuoli, sukupuoli, hautaus, arkeologia, feminismi, uusmaterialismi, teoriat, spekulaatio, Arkeologia, Archaeology, Arkeologi, Kulttuuriperinnön maisteriohjelma, Master's Programme in Cultural Heritage, Magisterprogrammet i kulturarv

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