The Transformation of Social Institutions in the North American Southeast


Corporate institutions, which transformed in the American Southeast over some 14,000 years, include social heterarchies and hierarchies that arose within the institutional contexts of descent groups, ritual sodalities, and social houses. The strategic and tactical actions of competitive and cooperative agents contributed to differing expressions of organizational changes through a variety of forms, including feasting, feuding/warfare, inalienable goods circulation, indebtedness, monumental constructions, mortuary events, processions/rogations, strategic marriages, and additional ritual and social practices. The nexus of social institutions that evolved along these pathways served as a catalyst for social changes, including the ways through which social institutions became transformed. Such social processes inform archaeologists of the agency, organization, and practice of people who not only invented and manipulated cosmologies, ideologies, institutions, and resources to achieve varying degrees of inequality, power, and wealth, but also those who resisted the efforts of aggrandizers. The author’s arguments focus on aristocratic social actions and actors, and the practices that enabled them to gain power and wealth through exclusive and restrictive corporate institutions.

Publication Title

World-Systems Evolution and Global Futures