As I finish up the annotated bibliography for the final project, I find that I am still frustrated with the problems I face defining historical archaeology within Island Southeast Asia. For the purposes of my paper, I chose to define historical archaeology as text-aided archaeology, yet this doesn’t really capture the problems inherent in using Deetz’ definition of an archaeology that studies European influences and the spread of capitalism post-1500 for this region of the world. The major problem with applying that definition to Indonesia is that the area experienced contact with other colonial powers such as India and China many centuries prior to European contact, and the region was a central player in pan-regional capitalist trade networks. I’m not sure that I have truly solved this conundrum in how I think about historical archaeology in this region, but others have suggested the use of the more specific term Colonial archaeology to define the archaeology of post-European contact in the region. This solves the issue of temporal discontinuities, but it does still impose several assumptions, namely that only European colonial powers have the ability to impact/affect/destroy indigenous systems.
More simply, the goals of my project were to explore the following questions:
What historical contingencies exist?
How might these present in the archaeology?
What is the scope of the existing historical and historical archaeological research in this area?
Are we aware of dominant narratives in the maps and documents that we use to explain the archaeological record?
How can we include more nuanced and holistic interpretations?
I explored these questions through several topics of interest, which included religion, material culture, gender and identity, agriculture, general background information, and territories and political boundaries. Having accomplished this bibliography, I realize just how diverse the topics of study in this region are, despite the fact that the depth of each topic is generally poor. There is a great deal of potential research out there, for those of us that are interested!