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Beyond Ethnicity: The Overlooked Diversity of Group Identities

Issue: Vol 22 No. 1 (2009)

Journal: Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology

Subject Areas: Ancient History Archaeology

DOI: 10.1558/jmea.v22i1.101


This article challenges the current tendency in archaeology to assume an ethnic basis for group identity. Archaeology has rehabilitated the concept of ethnicity over the last decade, embracing a theoretically sensitive model of it as both socially constructed and socially constructing, as flexible, embodied and hybridised. The success of this model has been such that group identities are often assumed to be ethnic without investigation. Group identity, however, can relate to many types of perceived commonality and we must learn to look beyond ethnicity, viewing it as only one amongst many potentially salient social factors. This article advocates the active investigation of group identity and the complex social rationales that lie behind it. It takes as a case study the site of Beycesultan in western Anatolia, illustrating the dynamism of group identities in the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages, and highlighting how group identity crystallised only at particular historical moments and around social rationales which were not primarily ethnic.

Author: Naofse Mac Sweeney

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