Back to the Stone Age

Race and Prehistory in Contemporary Culture

By (author) Ben Pitcher
Categories: Social Science
Publisher: McGill-Queen's University Press
Paperback : 9780228014522, 328 pages, December 2022

How our interest in human origins is shaped by ideas about race.

Description

Prehistoric human life is a common reference point in contemporary culture, inspiring attempts to become happier, healthier, or better people. Exploited by capitalism, overwhelmed by technology, and living in the shadow of environmental catastrophe, we call on the prehistoric to escape the present, and to model alternative ways of living our lives.

In Back to the Stone Age Ben Pitcher explores how ideas about race are tightly woven into the powerful origin stories we use to explain who we are, where we came from, and what we are like. Using a broad range of examples from popular culture – from everyday practices like lighting fires and walking in the woods to engagements with genetic technologies and Neanderthal DNA, from megaliths and museum mannequins to television shows and best-selling nonfiction – Pitcher demonstrates how prehistory is alive in the twenty-first century, and argues that popular flights back in time provide revealing insights into present-day anxieties, obsessions, and concerns.

Back to the Stone Age shows that the human past is not set in stone. By opening up the prehistoric to critical contestation, Pitcher places racial justice at the centre of questions about the existence and persistence of Homo sapiens in the contemporary world.