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FW: [ANTHRO-L] Book Review - Empires: Perspectives from Archaeolo gy and History

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    ... From: Danny Yee [mailto:danny@ANATOMY.USYD.EDU.AU] Sent: Thursday, May 02, 2002 9:51 AM To: ANTHRO-L@LISTSERV.ACSU.BUFFALO.EDU Subject: [ANTHRO-L] Book
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      FW: [ANTHRO-L] Book Review - Empires: Perspectives from Archaeology and History

      -----Original Message-----
      From: Danny Yee [mailto:danny@...]
      Sent: Thursday, May 02, 2002 9:51 AM
      To: ANTHRO-L@...
      Subject: [ANTHRO-L] Book Review - Empires: Perspectives from Archaeology
      and History

       - Perspectives from Archaeology and History
       edited Alcock, D'Altroy, Morrison, Sinopli
       Cambridge University Press 2001
       523 pages, bibliography, index

       A book review by Danny Yee

      Though _Empires_ consists of all the papers from a 1997 conference, it
      lacks the uneven and disconnected feel conference proceedings often have.
      One reason for this is the obvious work that has gone into putting the
      volume together.  Another is the way recurring themes connect the papers
      together, forming a kind of network argument for the unity of the overall
      subject (even though one of the themes is the impossibility of any simple
      definition of "empire").  And the intrinsic fascination of the subject
      also helps.  _Empires_ as a whole, and many of its papers individually,
      combine traditional approaches (centred on written records and excavations
      of palaces, temples, and monuments) with more recent ones (stressing
      settlement studies, peripheral areas, and more complex readings of texts).
      The result should have something for anyone with any kind of serious
      interest in history and archaeology.

      The seventeen contributions span a broad range.  Geographically, there
      are six papers on American empires, three on South Asia and two on East
      Asia, and six on the Near East and Europe (counting the Portuguese and
      Spanish overseas empires as South Asian and American respectively).
      The major themes addressed include ideologies and actors (at various
      levels), geographical variation and local and peripheral perspectives,
      and connections to a broader world, whether geographical (world-systems)
      or temporal (successor states and historiographical perspectives).
      And a thematic approach is used to structure the volume, with the papers
      divided into five sections, each with its own introduction.

      "Sources, Approaches, Definitions" contains a mixed bag of papers that
      address methodological or epistemological issues.  The first paper, by
      Thomas Barfield, starts with the Xiognu and Han China, but extends
      to *steppe empires* and China more generally and thence to a universal
      taxonomy of empires.  Barfield's typology embraces primary empires --
      with "administration of diversity", transportation and communication
      systems, a monopoly of force, and some kind of broad "imperial project"
      -- and various forms of "shadow" empire -- "mirror" empires (such as
      those of the steppe nomads), merchantile empires, "vulture" empires, and
      "empires of nostalgia".  This framework is used by several of the other
      contributors to _Empires_, though sometimes only as a basis for dissent.

      Sanjay Subrahmanyam presents a history of *the Portuguese _Estado da
      India_*, asking whether or not it should be classified as an empire.
      Katharina Schreiber surveys the archaeology of *the Wari empire of
      Middle Horizon Peru*, tackling the epistemological problem of what
      criteria can be used for for assigning "empire" status in the absence
      of written evidence.  And Amelie Kuhrt examines one of the archetypal
      examples of an empire, *the Achaemenid Persian Empire*, focusing on its
      formation and cohesion, governance, and the balance between central
      power and local particularism.

      The papers in "Empires in a Wider World" are a bit of a miscellany.
      Michael Smith looks at *the Aztecs* in the context of the broader
      Mesoamerican economic world system, considering both Aztec imperial
      strategies and their effects on society in the provincial area of Morelos.
      Carla Sinopli gives a brief account of the earlier Mauryan empire
      before turning to *the Satavahana dynasty* of south India (c 100BCE
      to 200CE), where she focuses on the extent to which its ideological
      claims in inscriptions and monuments actually had substance in political,
      military, and economic infrastructure.  And Kathleen Deagan looks at how
      the imperial ideology of *Spanish America* clashed with local practice,
      especially in frontier and rural areas.

      "Imperial Integration and Imperial Subjects".  Terence D'Altroy
      political and economic developments in *the Inka empire*, with a focus
      on aristocratic lineages, estates, and inheritance.  Robert Morkot looks
      at imperial relations between *Nubia and Egypt*, during the expansion
      of the Eyptian New Kingdom Empire into Nubia (c. 1550-1050 BCE) and,
      a millenium later, during the 25th Dynasty Kushite domination of Eygpt
      (c. 750-650 BCE).  Kathleen Morrison attempts to illuminate debates about
      the nature of *the Vijayanagara empire* of south India (c. 1300-1700)
      by looking at three local areas (dry farmers in the urban hinterland,
      resistance in northern Tamil provinces, and forager-traders in the
      western mountains).

      Opening the "Imperial Ideologies" section, Elizabeth M. Brumfiel presents
      a study of *Aztec* state religion and ritual, in both the capital
      Tenochtitlan and a regional town Tepepolco, arguing that it was aimed
      at the young men who formed the backbone of the army.  Greg Woolf takes
      a fresh look at imperial ideologies in the familiar literary evidence
      from *classical Rome*.  Susan Alcock writes about memories of the past
      in *the Eastern Roman Empire*, focusing on landscapes and architectural
      spaces.  And Robin Yates argues that *the Chinese Qin dynasty* created
      key cosmographic myths, in particular those that underpin notions of
      Chinese cultural unity.

      The final section is "The Afterlife of Empires".  Mario Liverani gives
      a historiographical overview of ancient and modern explanations for
      the end of empires generally and for that of *the Assyrian Empire* in
      particular, considering such themes as inner decadence, outer shock,
      and cycles of collapse and rebirth.  John Moreland outlines the roles
      of administration, warfare and plunder, and trade in constructing *the
      Carolingian empire*, but focuses on the ideological appeal to classical
      Roman models, examining the monastery of San Vincenzo in southern Italy
      as "a beacon of Carolingian ideology on the edge of empire".  And Sabine
      MacCormack looks at historical perspectives on *the Inca Empire*, at
      the Spanish use of comparisons with the Roman Empire and at the effect
      on indigenous histories of conflicts within Inca lineages in Cuzco.


      %T      Empires
      %S      Perspectives from Archaeology and History
      %E      Alcock, Susan E.
      %E      D'Altroy, Terence N.
      %E      Morrison, Kathleen D.
      %E      Sinopli, Carla M.
      %I      Cambridge University Press
      %C      Cambridge
      %D      2001
      %O      hardcover, notes, bibliography, index
      %G      ISBN 0-521-77020-3
      %P      xxii,523pp
      %K      history, archaeology

      29 April 2002

              Copyright (c) 2002 Danny Yee       http://danny.oz.au/
              Danny Yee's Book Reviews      http://dannyreviews.com/

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