By Adam T Smith
The Classic-period Maya, the dominion of Urartu, and the towns of early southern Mesopotamia give you the focal issues for this multidimensional account of human polities. Are the towns and villages during which we are living and paintings, the lands which are woven into our senses of cultural and private id, and the nationwide territories we occupy in simple terms levels on which old methods and political rituals are enacted? Or do the types of constructions and streets, the evocative sensibilities of structure and vista, the aesthetics of position conjured in paintings and media represent political landscapes—broad units of spatial practices severe to the formation, operation, and overthrow of polities, regimes, and associations? Smith brings jointly modern theoretical advancements from geography and social conception with anthropological views and archaeological information to pursue those questions.
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Additional resources for The Political Landscape: Constellations of Authority in Early Complex Polities
Chapter 1 Sublimated Spaces Space is the mark of new history and the measure of work now afoot is the depth of the perception of space. Charles Olson, “Notes for the Proposition: Man Is Prospective” Charles Olson, poet and precocious postmodernist, was wrong. Although his call in 1948 to spatialize our understanding of the human past is regularly trotted out as an intellectual precursor to late-twentieth-century trends in social and literary theory, it would be di‹cult to argue at present that space has indeed become central to historical reﬂection.
The discussions in this chapter are concerned with the spatial production of internal coherence vital to the formation and routinization of authority. This includes not only the delineation of deﬁned territories within which sovereignty is conﬁned to the apparatus of a single authority, but also the creation of political identities—the association of identity with INTRODUCTION 27 land through the demolition of prior commitments and the development of a constructed memory of landscape. The concept of the regime, the focus of chapter 5, is used in this study to stand in for the host of implied structures and poorly articulated forms typically addressed under the rubric of urbanism.
It is only through such an understanding of human politics beyond the modern that the imagination of alternative civil formations— what Prasenjit Duara (1996: 151–52) refers to as “other visions of political community ”—can truly ﬂourish. A ﬁnal motive for examining politics through the lens of early complex polities arises from the sense of recognition that their political histories evoke in modern observers. Unlike studies of early hunter-gatherer or small-scale agricultural communities that have traditionally framed their examinations as explorations of “the Other,” investigations of early complex polities have been driven since their inception by a sense of recognition on the part of we moderns.