Gender and medieval archaeology: storming the castle

Gender and medieval archaeology: storming the castle

By Karen Dempsey

Antiquity, Vol. 9:369 (2019)

Abstract: Despite more than three decades of feminist critique, archaeological scholarship remains predominantly focused on the exploration of patriarchal narratives and is, therefore, complicit in reinforcing structural inequalities. Questions must be asked of how the construction of archaeological knowledge affects representation and impacts upon our ‘archaeologies’. This article explores the relative absence of gendered approaches within archaeology through the lens of later medieval archaeology, with a micro-focus on castle studies in Britain and Ireland. Are there reasons for the silence in relation to gender in the archaeology of the later Middle Ages, and what lessons are there for bringing about a more inclusive archaeology?

Introduction: In archaeology, the story of the past is largely told through the experiences of men. There have been noticeably fewer explorations of the wider spectrum of gendered identities and ideologies that undoubtedly existed during the human past. This is perhaps not surprising given that many inequalities based on sex, sexual preference or sexual identity persist to the present day. Our versions of the past reflect the context in which archaeological knowledge is produced: a patriarchal society in which (white) men are privileged above others tends to write a past based on the supremacy of males in highly stratified cultures, mirroring their present.

Click here to read this article from Cambridge University Press

Top Image: Photo by Przemysław Sakrajda / Wikimedia Commons

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