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Contingent Persistence: Continuity, Change, and Identity in the Romanization Debate

Lara Ghisleni completed her PhD at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee in 2017 (Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53211 USA [[email protected]]).

This article explores continuity, change, and identity in the context of the Romanization debate in Roman archaeology, connecting to wider conversations on deconstructing acculturation frameworks. Despite challenges to the Romanization paradigm, it has proven difficult to circumvent reductionist categories that a priori essentialize identity and material culture as only either Roman or native. It is argued that the concept of continuity and change as separate trajectories is an offshoot of this dichotomy, confining continuity to a past indexed by the transposition of preconquest forms and relegating transformation to a future demonstrated by Roman imposition. To move beyond dichotomous constraints, it is necessary to reconceptualize how continuity and change are linked to time, identity, and practice. Articulating with current approaches in anthropology and archaeology, this article considers continuity, change, and claims to difference as emergent and dialectic, resisting the confinement of the past and its material resonance to an insular, default state of being. The approach advocates disaggregating categories, tracing the multiply registered and multiscalar relational components that constitute contexts for social interaction and possibility. These ideas are explored through domestic space and gender relations during the Late Iron Age and Early Roman period in Dorset, southwest England.