Journal of Contemporary Archaeology, Vol 5, No 2 (2018)

Constructing the Future History: Prefiguration as Historical Epistemology and the Chronopolitics of Archaeology

Lewis Borck
Issued Date: 26 Jan 2019


Archaeology is a process for, at minimum, constructing history from the material record. The decisions about what to use to create that history is unavoidably political. This political act primarily serves to construct and enforce the power of the state, although it can be used to contest it. Prefiguration, emerging from anarchist theory and parallel social movements, can be understood not simply as a radical practice, but also as an understanding of how history is constructed. It can be used to explain how history is constructed from past and contemporary archaeological decisions as well as the world and socio-political organizations that future history will naturalize.

Download Media

PDF (Price: £17.50 )

DOI: 10.1558/jca.33560


Adams, N. 1993. “Architecture as the Target.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 52 (4): 389–90.

Allan, S. 1994. “‘When Discourse Is Torn from Reality’: Bakhtin and the Principle of Chronotopicity.” Time and Society 3 (2): 193–218.

Arnold, B. 1999. “The Contested Past.” Anthropology Today 15 (4): 1–4.

____. 2014. “Erasure of the Past.” In Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology, edited by C. Smith, 2441–2448. New York: Springer Reference.

Bakhtin, M. M. 2010 [1975]. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. University of Texas Press.

Bakunin, M. A. 1950. Marxism, Freedom and the State, edited by K. J. Kenafick. London: Freedom Press.

____. 1970 [1882]. God and the State. Translated by B. Tucker, revised. New York: Dover [facsimile of the 1916 edition of New York: Mother Earth Publishing Association].

____. 1971a. Bakunin on Anarchy: Selected Works by the Activist-Founder of World Anarchism. Edited by S. Dolgoff. New York: Vintage Books.

____. 1971b [1842]. “The Reaction in Germany.” In Bakunin on Anarchy, Selected Works by the Activist-Founder of World Anarchism, edited and translated by S. Dolgoff, 56–57. New York: Vintage Books.

____. 1973 [1873]. Statism and Anarchy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bandarin, F. 2007. World Heritage: Challenges for the Millennium. Paris: UNESCO.

Beisaw, A. M. 2010. “Memory, Identity, and NAGPRA in the Northeastern United States.” American Anthropologist 112 (2): 244–256.

Bey, H. 1991. The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism: Anarchy and Conspiracy. New York: Autonomedia.

Birmingham, J. 2013. “From Potsherds to Smartphones: Anarchism, Archaeology, and the Material World.” In Without Borders or Limits: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Anarchist Studies, edited by J. A. Meléndez Badillo and N. J. Jun, 165–176. London: Cambridge Scholars Press.

Black Trowel Collective. 2016. “Foundations of an Anarchist Archaeology: A Community Manifesto.” Savage Minds. 31 October. Online:

Boggs, C. 1977. “Marxism, Prefigurative Communism, and the Problem of Workers’ Control.” Radical America 11 (6): 99–122.

Bookchin, M. 1995. Social Anarchism or Lifestyle Anarchism: An Unbridgeable Chasm. San Francisco: AK Press.

Borck, L. and M. C. Sanger. 2017. “An Introduction to Anarchism in Archaeology.” SAA Archaeological Record 17 (1): 9–16.

Breines, W. 1989. Community and Organization in the New Left, 1962-1968: The Great Refusal. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Calhoun, C. 1993. “‘New Social Movements’ of the Early Nineteenth Century.” Social Science History 17 (3): 385–427.

Castañeda, Q. E. 1996. In the Museum of Maya Culture: Touring Chichén Itzá. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Chomsky, N. 2005. Chomsky on Anarchsim. Chico, CA: AK Press.

Cohn, J. S. 2006. Anarchism and the Crisis of Representation: Hermeneutics, Aesthetics, Politics. Selinsgrove, PA: Susquehanna University Press.

Connerton, P. 1989. How Societies Remember. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

CrimethInc. 2008. Expect Resistance: A Field Manual. Salem, MA: CrimethInc Ex-Workers Collective.

Day, R. J. F. 2005. Gramsci Is Dead: Anarchist Currents in the Newest Social Movements. London: Pluto Press.

Faryluk, L. 2015. “Arqueología Anarquista: Entre Un Estado De La Cuestión Y Un Manifiesto Individual (En Contra Del Individualismo).” Revista Erosión 5 (3): 71–87.

Ferguson, T. J. and C. Colwell-Chanthaphonh. 2006. History Is in the Land: Multivocal Tribal Traditions in Arizona’s San Pedro Valley. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.

Flexner, J. L. 2014. “The Historical Archaeology of States and Non-States: Anarchist Perspectives from Hawai’i and Vanuatu.” Journal of Pacific Archaeology 5 (2): 81–97.

Foucault, M. 1980 [1977]. “The Eye of Power: A Conversation with Jean-Pierre Barou and Michelle Perrot.” In Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews & Other Writings 1972-1977, by M. Foucault, 146–165. New York: Pantheon Books.

Fowler, D. D. 1987. “Uses of the Past: Archaeology in the Service of the State.” American Antiquity 52 (2): 229–248.

Franks, B. 2003. “Direct Action Ethic.” Anarchist Studies 1: 13–41.

____. 2006. Rebel Alliances: The Means and Ends of Contemporary British Anarchisms. Edinburgh: AK Press.

____. 2014. “Anti-Fascism and Prefigurative Ethics.” Affinities: A Journal of Radical Theory, Culture, and Action 8 (1): 44–72.

Freeman, J. 1972–1973. “The Tyranny of Structurelessness.” Berkeley Journal of Sociology 17: 151–64.

Gellner, E. 1964. Thought and Change. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Giroux, H. A. 2013. The Violence of Organized Forgetting. City Lights Books.

Goldman, E. 2012. Anarchism and Other Essays. Courier Corporation.

Gordon, U. 2008. Anarchy Alive!: Anti-Authoritarian Politics from Practice to Theory. Pluto Press.

Graeber, D. 2002. “The New Anarchists.” New Left Review 13: 61–73.

____. 2013. The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement. New York: Spiegel and Grau.

Hayes, K. 2011. “Occulting the Past. Conceptualizing Forgetting in the History and Archaeology of Sylvester Manor.” Archaeological Dialogues 18 (2): 197–221.

Halbwachs, M. 1992. On Collective Memory. New York: Harper & Row.

Hendon, J. A. 2010. “Introduction: Thinking about Memory.” In Houses in a Landscape, 1–31. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Ince, A. 2012. “In the Shell of the Old: Anarchist Geographies of Territorialisation.” Antipode 44 (5): 1645–1666.

Industrial Workers of the World. 1905. “Preamble to the IWW Constitution.” Online:

King, M. L. Jr. 1963. Strength to Love. New York: Harper and Row.

Klinke, I. 2013. “Chronopolitics: A Conceptual Matrix.” Progress in Human Geography 37 (5): 673–690.

Kropotkin, P. 1898. The State: Its Historic Role. London: “ Freedom” Office.

____. 1992 [1885]. Words of a Rebel. Montreal: Black Rose Books.

Lenin, V. I. 1970 [1902]. What Is to Be Done? London: Panther.

Levy, J. E. 2006. “Prehistory, Identity, and Archaeological Representation in Nordic Museums.” American Anthropologist 108 (1): 135–147.

Lowenthal, D. 1985. The Past Is a Foreign Country. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Maeckelbergh, M. 2009. The Will of the Many: How the Alterglobalisation Movement Is Changing the Face of Democracy. London: Pluto Press.

____. 2011. “Doing Is Believing: Prefiguration as Strategic Practice in the Alterglobalization Movement.” Social Movement Studies 10 (1): 1–20.

McGuire, R. H. 2008. Archaeology as Political Action. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Meskell, L. 2013. “A Thoroughly Modern Park: Mapungubwe, UNESCO and Indigenous Heritage.” In Reclaiming Archaeology: Beyond the Tropes of Modernity, edited by A. González-Ruibal, 244–257. London and New York: Routledge.

Meskell, L. and R. Pruecel. 2008. “Politics.” In Companion to Social Archaeology, edited by L. Meskell and R. W. Preucel, 315–334. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Mills, B. J. 2008. “Remembering While Forgetting: Depositional Practice and Social Memory at Chaco.” In Memory Work: Archaeologies of Material Practice, edited by B. J. Mills and W. H. Walker, 81–108. Santa Fe, NM: School for Advanced Research Press.

____. and W. H. Walker. 2008. “Introduction: Memory, Materiality, and Depositional Practice.” In Memory Work: Archaeologies of Material Practice, edited by B. J. Mills and W. H. Walker, 3–23. Santa Fe, NM: School for Advanced Research Press.

Politis, G. 1995. “The Socio-Politics of the Development of Archaeology in Hispanic South America.” In Theory in Archaeology: A World Perspective, edited by P. J. Ucko, 194–231. London and New York: Routledge.

Polletta, F. 2012. Freedom Is an Endless Meeting: Democracy in American Social Movements. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Preucel, R. W. 1991. “The Philosophy of Achaeology.” In Processual and Postprocessual Archaeologies: Multiple Ways of Knowing the Past, edited by R. W. Preucel, 17–29. Carbondale: Center for Archaeological Inivestigations, Southern Ilinois University.

____. 2006. Archaeological Semiotics. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

Proudhon, P. J. 1876 [1840]. What Is Property? An Enquiry into the Principle of Right and of Government. Translated by B. R. Tucker. Princeton, NJ: Benjamin R. Tucker.

Quail, J. 1978. The Slow Burning Fuse. Chicago: Lake View Press.

Rocker, R. 1956. The London Years. London: Robert Anscombe & Co. for the Rudolf Rocker Book Committee.

____. 2004 [1938]. Anarcho-Syndicalism: Theory and Practice. Edinburgh: AK Press.

Rucht, D. 1988. “Themes, Logics, and Arenas of Social Movements: A Structural Approach.” International Social Movement Research 1: 305–28.

Sauer, E. 2003. The Archaeology of Religious Hatred in the Roman and Early Medieval World. Stroud, UK: Tempus.

Schlembach, R. 2012. “Social Movements in Post-Political Society: Prefiguration, Deliberation and Consensus.” In From Social to Political: New Forms of Mobilization and Democratization, edited by B. Tejerina and I. Perugorria, 234–246. Bilbao, Spain: University of Basque Country.

Schmidt, P. R. and T. C. Patterson, eds. 1995. Making Alternative Histories: The Practice of Archaeology and History in Non-Western Settings. Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research Press.

Sinopoli, C. M. 2003. “Echoes of Empire: Vijayanagara and Historical Memory, Vijayanagara as Historical Memory.” In Archaeologies of Memory, edited by R. M. Van Dyke and S. E. Alcock, 17–33. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Springer, S. 2016. The Anarchist Roots of Geography: Toward Spatial Emancipation. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Tamm, M. 2016. “Writing Histories, Making Nations: A Review Essay.” Storicamente 32 (12): 1–29.

Toulmin, S. and J. Goodfield. 1965. The Discovery of Time. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Trotsky, L. 1973 [1938]. “Their Morals and Ours.” In Their Morals and Ours: Marxist Versus Liberal Views on Morality, by L Trotsky, J. Dewey and G. Novack, 17–58. New York: Pathfinder Press.

van de Sande, M. 2015. “Fighting with Tools: Prefiguration and Radical Politics in the Twenty-First Century.” Rethinking Marxism 27 (2): 177–194.

Van Dyke, R. M. and S. E. Alcock. 2003. “Archaeologies of Memory: An Introduction.” In Archaeologies of Memory, edited by R. M. Van Dyke and S. E. Alcock, 1–13. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Wallis, G. W. 1970. “Chronopolitics: The Impact of Time Perspectives on the Dynamics of Change.” Social Forces 49 (1): 102–108.

Wengrow, D. and D. Graeber. 2015. “Farewell to the ‘Childhood of Man’: Ritual, Seasonality, and the Origins of Inequality.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 21 (3): 597–619.

Witmore, C. 2013. “Which Archaeology?: A Question of Chronopolitics.” In Reclaiming Archaeology: Beyond the Tropes of Modernity, edited by A. González-Ruibal, 130–144. London and New York: Routledge.

Yates, L. 2015. “Rethinking Prefiguration: Alternatives, Micropolitics and Goals in Social Movements.” Social Movement Studies 14 (1): 1–21.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Equinox Publishing Ltd - 415 The Workstation 15 Paternoster Row, Sheffield, S1 2BX United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)114 221-0285 - Email:

Privacy Policy