In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Archaeology and Class

  • Introduction
  • Journals
  • Anthologies
  • Defining Class
  • Class Theory
  • Class Analysis: Archaeological Methods and Applications
  • Class Origins
  • Class in Complex Societies
  • Class and Labor
  • Intersectionalities: Class, Race, and Gender
  • Class, Inequality, and Power
  • Class and Violence
  • Class Struggle/Class Conflict
  • The Class Structure of Archaeology

Anthropology Archaeology and Class
LouAnn Wurst
  • LAST REVIEWED: 21 March 2024
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 March 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766567-0293


The sources for this bibliography on archaeology and class would seem to be relatively few, since the term class seldom appears in archaeological literature. Class is more commonly encountered in other disciplines, such as sociology (see the Oxford Bibliographies in Sociology article “Class”), geography (see the Oxford Bibliographies in Geography article “Geography and Class”), political science (see the Oxford Bibliographies in Political Science article “Class in American Politics”), or history (see the Oxford Bibliographies in Atlantic History article “Class and Social Structure”). The subject of class is fraught with confusion and contradiction. Some see open discussion of class as impolite or rude and ignore or deny its importance. Others suggest that class may have been important in the past but is not any longer. Given the transformations in labor and loss of the manufacturing sector that gave class its basis, class is deemed irrelevant for understanding individual identity in the contemporary neoliberal world. On the other hand, some scholars argue that class is the most important concept for understanding human social relations past and present and has seldom been seriously confronted. These contradictory ideas stem from real theoretical differences that entail different definitions of class. Class is explicitly discussed mostly by Marxian scholars who have always used class to center their research, and by historical archaeologists who study the modern capitalist world where class is hard to ignore. Marxism is thought to have lost relevance with the collapse of the Soviet Union and fall of Berlin Wall, and the concept of class was discredited along with these events. The association of class with Marxism also means that the term has often been substituted with less dangerous ones or masked by others such as hierarchy, stratification, rank, inequality, or power. Regardless of the theoretical framing, the notion of class entails ideas of social group difference: in work or labor, wealth or property, status or prestige, control over surplus production, or power and authority. Because of these differences, class relations are inherently antagonistic and contradictory, and aspects of violence and class struggle are important to the idea of class.


There are no journals devoted to the study of class in archaeology. American Antiquity and Latin American Archaeology contain many articles relating to class-based societies globally and in Central and South America. The Journal of Social Archaeology adopts a more critical stance and often focuses on issues of social inequality. Historical Archaeology and the International Journal of Historical Archaeology specialize in the archaeology of the modern or capitalist world. Marxist journals confront class more directly. Dialectical Anthropology focuses on the contemporary world but publishes many articles about labor and class. Capital & Class, Science and Society, and Historical Materialism are three of the most important journals devoted to Marxist scholarship. Race, Gender & Class deals with the intersection of class with other categories of social difference.

  • American Antiquity.

    Primary journal of the Society for American Archaeology, containing many articles related to states and class-based societies.

  • Capital & Class.

    Founded in 1977, this journal is an important source for articles on a Marxist approach to class.

  • Dialectical Anthropology.

    International journal that emphasizes dialectical approaches to social theory, political practice, and Marxist anthropology, and regularly publishes articles about labor and class.

  • Historical Archaeology.

    Journal published by the Society for Historical Archaeology that focuses on the archaeology of the modern capitalist world.

  • Historical Materialism.

    An interdisciplinary peer-reviewed journal that focuses on developing the critical and explanatory potential of Marxist theory.

  • International Journal of Historical Archaeology.

    Published since 1997, this journal deals with the archaeology of the modern world globally.

  • Journal of Social Archaeology.

    Founded in 2001, this journal focuses on social approaches to archaeology that regularly treats social inequality.

  • Latin American Archaeology.

    Devoted to archaeology south of the Rio Grande and publishes articles on the class-based societies of Central America.

  • Race, Gender & Class.

    This journal, formerly named Race, Sex & Class, published from 1995 to 2018, focuses on the intersection of race, gender, and class in many disciplines.

  • Science and Society.

    A peer-reviewed interdisciplinary journal of Marxist scholarship on the political economy and economic analysis of contemporary societies.

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