... and I need to thank very much all who accepted to collaborate in this effort, including Dr. Margarita Díaz-Andreu, University of Durham, who is one of he organizers of the conference.
See you all in Durham!
Archaeologists as contemporary critical thinkers
Organised by: Vitor O. Jorge (University of Porto/CEAUCP,
Right from the beginning of archaeology as a “science” during the 19th century, archaeologists, like any other social scientists at the time, tried to elaborate a “theory” of “man” and of “society”. Implicitly or explicitly, this “theory” was, and still is, meshed with “practice”. Theory and practice are combined in fieldwork, in the production archaeological texts (reports included) and the presentation of “results” to the general public. This session aims to think critically about archaeology in the modern world, paying particular attention to those debates and enquires that have preoccupied modern thinkers in the last decades. What are the contributions that archaeology has made to modern dialogue in the social sciences? If we want that the production and diffusion of our work have some effect beyond the purely academic world, how do we integrate it into a modern politics of knowledge? That is the challenge of this session, calling for papers that are situated in the interface of archaeology and a politics of knowledge, i.e., of a critical thinking and action.
Archaeological critical practice
Lesley McFadyen (University of Porto)
I have been thinking about excavation and archive, and on the terms that we bring the making of the archive into our practice. How are excavation and archive, practice and object, material and representation, expressive? In particular, I want to discuss the excavation, drawing and writing of an Early Bronze Age ringditch at Barleycroft in Cambridgeshire.
Jacques Derrida in ‘Archive Fever’ and Hannah Arendt in ‘Between Past and Future’ discuss archive and literature. Both of these critical thinkers found themselves in-between things, and this process disrupted historical knowledge, created different notions of time, and opened up the question of the future. I want to take the temporal qualities of that work and discuss the moments in archaeology when there is a tension between the sculpted shape of the excavated feature and the traces of action that we can draw. For between cut and fill, excavation and drawing, trowel and pencil, the archaeologist is between an upcast barrow that is not quite here but yet at hand. But what I want to emphasise about drawing, and about bringing the making of the archive into that practice, is how it changes what we can write about time and how prehistoric things relate to past and future.
Towards a critical archaeology of late modernity: the archaeology of the contemporary past as counter-modern archaeology
Rodney Harrison (The Open University)
Julian Thomas (2004) has recently argued that archaeology could only have emerged as a distinct discipline under the particular social and intellectual conditions of modernity. In this paper I explore the archaeology of the contemporary past as a ‘counter-modern’ archaeology which aims to challenge the underlying impulse of modernist archaeology and anthropology to produce an ‘Other’ to ourselves by focussing attention on the archaeology of contemporary, late-modern social life. In doing so, I argue that the archaeology of the contemporary past has the potential to produce insights which not only address themselves directly to contemporary social, ethical and political concerns, but which also contribute to the development of new forms of social knowledge that extend beyond the boundaries of our own discipline by breaking down the disciplinary boundaries that have restricted such movement, as well as develop new forms of critical thinking about the place of humans and contemporary material culture in the world.
Archaeology after Simplicity - Redesigning Reflexivity
Stephanie Koerner (University of Manchester, UK)
Until recently, not many archaeologists would have expected fundamental change in theoretical and methodological orientations to arise from projects that challenge presuppositions perpetuating ‘expert knowledge’ - ‘public issues’ dichotomies. I explore developments transforming this situation, and the bearing upon challenges facing “archaeologists as critical thinkers”.
There are no such things as context independent problems. “We never experience or form judgments about objects and events in isolation, but only in connection with a contextualised whole. The latter is called a situation” (Dewey 1938: 66-67). Complexity and emergent novelty are the normal state of affairs for reality, and crucial for understanding how we find the world intelligible (Ingold and Koerner 2009), Such dichotomies as nature-culture, the global versus the local, the real versus the historically contingent, prioritise the least (rather than the most) tractable problems, and impede appreciating the importance for sustaining diversity of human life ways of plurality of the past and future aspirations.
My presentation concludes with suggestions about implications for concerns to ‘re-design’ archaeological reflexivity for “needs of a world in which simplicity is a memory of a bygone age” (Funtowicz and Ravetz 1997; Latour 2008).
The case for revisiting a deliberative poetics in archaeology: rejecting dichotomies from the past
Adrian F. Davis (University of Wales Lampeter - UWL)
Where archaeology has successfully wrested it's epistemology from a production of knowledge predicated on a heavy handed empiricism, then perhaps archaeologies greatest success to date has been its embracing of a resolutely political approach to a Diaspora of critical issues around cultural and heritage resource management. For the most part much good work has been done here to rectify the undeniable inequalities of power through pursuing a generic inclusivity toward other pasts. The cost to our discipline's standing in the academy however have been considerable; particularly in so far as we have been compelled to accept a resolutely pejorative account of our disciplinary history as being steeped in and emerging from the worst excess of enlightenment 'rationality' and colonial excess. This lurch from unreflective science on the one hand to a politics steeped in the hermeneutics of suspicion on the other have not in my view effectively countered our ongoing disciplinary leanings toward modelling our discipline on the hard sciences, from which ultimately, many of our political headaches arise. This somewhat vicious circularity remains doubly unsatisfactory, and my paper will attempt to argue that archaeology can only demonstrate it’s most attractive and critical thinking to the wider intellectual community by jettisoning this circularity in favour of a timely and historical reprise of a more deliberative poetics, and with it a raft of more innovative and interpretive methodologies.
Solid things and bizarre stories. The archaeologist as a tragic narrator
Joana Alves Ferreira (University of Porto/CEAUCP)
…“It was nothing but glass”
Virginia Woolf, Solid Objects (1918)
In this sentence, apparently of easy understanding, Virginia Woolf encapsulates the complexity of the “unknown” showing us the way to the wonderful simplicity of the opening.
The bizarre story told by V. Woolf make us reflect about the narrative and its traditional way of representing the world as well as on the paradigm of the historical discourse, which is the crystallization of an image. Therefore, any narrative reflects a desire for singularity, a desire to narrate its genesis, making it intelligible. Here lies the tragic sense of the narrative, which is the impossibility of origin. In this sense, the archaeologist while a “storyteller” moves in this tragic emptiness postulating, in his/her fantasy, an answer to this riddle, trying to print a positive sense to the world around.
As well as Virginia Woolf’s character we, the archaeologists, are faced with the impossibility of the answer. Reflecting on the impossibility of the origin implies a rejection from the logocentric discourses, breaking with the crystallized images of any unique phenomenon. The impossibility of the origin is the opening to an exterior ambiguity and to a repetition of the always different. It is a thinking outside the concept of linearity.
Like Mirrors: Archaeological Parallax
Gonçalo Leite Velho (Polythecnic Institute of Tomar)
In his “Contre-Chant” part of the poem “Fou d’Elsa”, Louis Aragon writes “I am that wretch comparable with mirrors / that can reflect but cannot see”. These words, who allow us to have a glimpse in the situation of Ego, illustrate well the situation of Archaeology. We seem to be always in the presence of an insurmountable gap (a parallax gap) pulled apart by two forces, one centrifugal, pointing to the past (the desire to see in a “pure gaze” the past “as it was”) and other centripetal, where the present works as a gravitational point (marked by the continuous presence of reflections). When looking at Archaeology through the prism of Time, it is usual to see traces of epochs, reflexes of principles, that didn’t seem to be so present to those who “lived” them. It seems like an impossible displacement the movement of being somehow “out of joint”, “out of oneself”, “out of one’s time”. In heideggerianees we might say that, it seems that even when we take our most resoluteness authentic act we cling to some inauthentic presence (what we might dare to call in lacaneese “the Other”). This paper explores these gaps and its parallax possibilities (in an obvious debt with Zizek). Taking in account the Greek concepts of αρχη (arche) and λογος (logos) we develop the concept of Principle Reflection.
Why is archeology a pervert science or why Kung fu Panda and Fight Club are worth watching?
Dawid Kobialka (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan)
Archaeologists used to think about themselves as socially desirable objects. I disagree with such a point of view. Rather, I claim that archaeologists want to be desired by society. That is why archaeologists are the object of their own desires. Such a conviction about the knowledge of Other’s (society’s) desires is defined in the psychoanalysis of Jacques Lacan as a perversion. I argue that contemporary archaeology can be seen a pervert science.
Psychoanalysis and cinema can shed new light on archaeology and reconsider some fundamental assumptions about public archaeology. Using the thoughts of the most prominent follower of Lacan, Slavoj Žižek, my theoretical discussion takes into account the examples of cinema. Cinema is a very interesting theoretical tool that should often be used by archaeologists. The result of taking into account cinema is – what is called by the author – the theory (in a broad sense of the term) of Kung-fu Panda. On the other hand, Fight Club is approach as an answer to what has to be done with contemporary archaeology.
Archaeology and the politics of inheritance
Sérgio Gomes (University of Porto/CEAUCP)
Archaeology, among other social sciences, has been providing raw materials and contributing to the construction of different kinds of identity and identification strategies. Regarding its importance, archaeologists often discuss their role in this process, and think about their connections with the social context within which they develop their practice. In such discussion, should be highlighted important works on archaeology and nationalism or archaeology and gender, which contribute to our understanding of how prejudices act from the moment we identify, select and interpret materials. In this paper, I aim to focus on these topics, trying to discuss how the idea of inheritance entails a chronological linear sequence that pushes us to reproduce a set of identities that reinforce the hegemonic models that rule contemporary societies. In doing this, I will try to argue that archaeology might have an important role on the invention of new kinds of identity or, at least, could contribute to a better understanding of how complex, and often paradoxical, can be the way people represent themselves and others.
The importance of a philosophy of techniques and technology to archaeology and beyond
Vítor Oliveira Jorge (University of Porto/CEAUCP)
Following a very long tradition, several recent French thinkers, among many others, have underlined the crucial importance of the techniques and of technology to understand the human reality. In spite of it, philosophy has rarely taken this subject as a really important one; in the words of Stiegler: “ Technics is the unthought”. I will concentrate in just two of those authors, Gilbert Simondon (1924-1989) and (the one quoted above) Bernard Stiegler (born 1952). These two philosophers have a critical importance to archaeology, contributing to a correct vision of a central issue of its object, human’s activity in relation with materials and through the mediation of “machines”. Also, Stiegler in particular may allow us to comprehend what is at stake in our hyper-industrial society, in which technology has gone out of the citizen’s control, provoking a crisis of general or libidinal economy. Archaeology, as any other field of research/activity, may and shall call for a different organization of society where processes of individuation be made within a sense of community and not in the neo-liberal way of abstract and isolated consumers. This political and philosophical approach is also consistent with a more comprehensive view of our past as human beings.
Political animals: predator or prey?
Bo Jensen (independent, Copenhagen)
Post-industrial society (or risk society, or hyper-industrial society) entails a democratic crisis: new issues arise that do not respond to the neat divisions of old party politics. Environmentalism is one such issue, animal rights another. Neither the old left, nor the old right has a strong tradition on these issues. Further, animal rights debates have so far escaped the privatization of ethics and the institution of state of emergency as the norm. The indeterminability and subjectivity of involved ethics and the resulting epistemological uncertainty is obvious to most participants. Everyone argues from an acknowledged minority position. At the same time, post-industrial society also coincides with an information revolution that puts the status of archaeology in crisis. Due to information glut and due to a post-modern undermining of the epistemological standards of traditional bourgeois culture, archaeology and other disciplines now risk becoming true but irrelevant to much of the reading public
I argue that there are potentially productive intersections between archaeology and animal rights debates; and that they offer us sound epistemological critique and a vast new, potential readership; but that so far, zooarchaeologists have shied away from pursuing these opportunities.
Archaeology. An autopsy
Manuel Maria Guimarães de Castro Nunes
To identify the structural problems that archaeology needs to face, concerning to clarify the crossing through multiple tasks, concerning research, cultural heritage preservation and valuation, and cultural sociability of knowledge, several ethical and epistemological matters may be revaluated. The increasing specialization of several ranges of archaeological praxis, disseminating the knowledge through an infinite universe of tight scientific domains, obstructed the rule of the History and Social Sciences as the assembly of archaeological knowledge and its social finality.
Taking the history of medicine as paradigm, and the fighting between medicine and surgery as the topic where we may understand the rule of the antinomy between theory and praxis on the formulation of modernity, we will propose that the crucial epistemological cracks on archaeological thinking an theory are, nowadays, fundamentally, an ethical problem. And it concerns the use or the finality of knowledge.
Julian Thomas (University of Manchester)