The Work of Boundaries: Critical Cartographies and the Archaeological Record of the Relatively Recent Past

Mark W. Hauser*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Discussions of boundaries have enjoyed a renaissance in anthropological archaeology of recent years, especially as conversations surrounding forced migration and border walls look toward the material record for clarification about what borders are and what they do. Since 1995, when the Annual Review of Anthropology last addressed a similar issue, numerous methodological and conceptual changes in the field have led to a large proliferation in the literature. By framing this review around the work of boundaries, I signal two trends in the field of archaeology with conceptual and methodological implications. The first trend is the increased centrality of materiality as a theoretical register as new questions relating to object agency, human/nonhuman boundaries, and new models of environmental archaeology have populated the literature. In such climates it is important to focus on boundaries as a kind of assemblage of actants that takes on agencies beyond notions of territory. Associated border, crossing, transnational, and refuge assemblages are discussed. The second trend is the increased attention to boundary work in archaeology. In this article I review one thread of that literature, critical cartographies, and how they have used the archaeological record to develop radical renditions of political space where boundaries are involved. I focus on scholarship surrounding the relatively recent past (ca. 1200 CE to the present).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)509-526
Number of pages18
JournalAnnual Review of Anthropology
StatePublished - Oct 24 2022


  • borders
  • countermapping
  • crossings
  • mapping
  • mobility
  • territoriality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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