Anarchistic action: Social organization and dynamics in southern Scandinavia from the Iron Age to the Middle Ages

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A general interest in centralized institutions, state formation and prestige objects has dominated research on social organization and dynamics in Scandinavia from the Late Iron Age to the Middle Ages. Accordingly, a focus on kingly power, aristocratic influence, hierarchies and warrior might has dominated archaeological research designs for the last forty years. Subsequently, other perspectives have been evaded and their significance has been diminished. In this article, I use anarchistic principles as an analytic perspective and present examples of anarchistic actions-network organization, justified leaders and decentralization drawing on well-known but ambiguous phenomena such as thing sites, the southern Danish defence system Danevirke, and migration and mobility. I suggest a perspective that recognizes resistance, authority and decentralization as well as centralization and institutionalization, allowing a broad spectrum of social engagement and interrelations to influence social organization. I will argue that human intention-ality has been overlooked in favour of structures and institutions, and that the power of network organization and decentralization is influential in shaping social organization and dynamics. Introduction In this article, I will explore the possibility of anarchism to provide a strong analytical framework for studying societies from a perspective where power and control lie not only within institution-alized centres or states or even with a single chieftain or magnate, but also within the complex interaction and reactions of individuals, families and households or local, regional and even global cooperative groups and networks. Power, wealth and centralization are pivotal in studies on social organization and dynamics from the Late Iron Age to the Middle Ages (A.D. 550-1550) in southern Scandinavia. The objective of such studies often relates to state formation and the development of centralized institutions and royal power, a tendency termed 'power-and-prestige archaeology' by Widgren.
Original languageDanish
JournalArchaeological Dialogues
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)61-73
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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