Tradition, continuity, and resistance
in An archaeology of innovation
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This chapter explores the tricky question of non-innovation, and how we might understand it both archaeologically and in the present. At its core is the case study of Romano-British Cornwall, during an apparently static and stodgy period where archaeologists have observed a marked tendency towards continuity from much earlier periods in settlement pattern and material culture. By assuming that this seeming non-change reflected active, negotiated choices, a new model emerges in which maintaining traditional practices and ways of life is part of an active resistance of Roman domination. This case study is used as an entry point, first to discuss how to identify and understand innovation resistance or non-innovation in archaeological contexts and, second, to understand the various practices that are bundled together under the umbrella of conservatism. The chapter emphasizes how innovation and non-innovation result from and affect flows of power, and the effects of these on personal and social networks. The logic of anti-innovation is explored, and the modern myth of disruption as unalloyed good is, itself, disrupted. The chapter builds on post-colonial literature to argue that persistence is a better frame for non-innovation than conservatism, but that even the identification of a given practice as innovative or not is a subjective judgment affected by power relations, histories of practice, and local context.

An archaeology of innovation

Approaching social and technological change in human society


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