I’m headed off to the Theoretical Archaeology Group Meetings in Bristol in a couple of days and I’ve been trying to get my paper and my presentation together. The session I am in runs all day on Saturday, so I’m not sure what else I’ll be able to see, but here are a couple of sessions that I’d really like to catch:
Tradition in question
Julian Thomas (Manchester University)
Irene Garcia Rovira (University of Manchester)
It is now twenty years since the issue of tradition was explicitly addressed in a session at TAG. How far has our understanding developed in the intervening period?
Our view is that while cultural and social traditions are continually evoked in archaeological writings, explicit theorisation of the concept is surprisingly scarce. One reason for this is that tradition is often simply used as a placeholder for concepts that have fallen into question. Thus we might talk about ‘material traditions’ instead of ‘cultures’, or about ‘traditional societies’ as a means of side-stepping crude forms of social evolutionism. Yet in both cases, ‘tradition’ is reduced to a neutral term, which carries little interpretive force. Equally, within the social sciences at large, tradition has been treated with some ambivalence, perhaps because of its centrality to some forms of conservative thought. Although it was fundamental to aspects of practice theory in the 1970s and 1980s, tradition has faded a little from anthropological and sociological concern in the past two decades, possibly as a result of the complementary rise of interest in social memory and materiality.
Manifestos for materials
Dan Hicks (Oxford University)
Manifestos are re-emerging, perhaps: from Donna Haraway’s Companion Species Manifesto (2003), to Danny Miller and Sophie Woodward’s ‘Manifesto for a study of Denim’ (2007), to Bruno Latour’s ‘Compositionist Manifesto’ (2010). These manifestos are diverse, but while we might imagine manifestos to be concerned with human life, human thought, human politics, or human futures, material things/nonhumans figure prominently in these texts.
Pluralist practices: archaeology is nothing, archaeology is everything
Ffion Reynolds (Cardiff University)
This session will explore the ways in which we approach our research.
Essentially, we want to tackle the question: who are you?
From a pluralist position one may argue that as a profession we become ‘archaeologists’ in a variety of ways. Do you call yourself an archaeologist first, or as in my case do you answer with a series of others labels/words? For example, are you a theorist first and foremost? Or an artist? Or are you fundamentally a writer or a philosopher? Does it matter to you how other people see your work?, or is it more to do with individual identity within a larger body of thought? How do you do your research? And how does it become archaeological? And how might your research create new concepts within archaeology? What would you like to leave behind? How would you like to be remembered?
It is to these types of questions that we would like to turn to in our session. It is an opportunity to look towards ourselves in more detail, rather than to the analogies that we use. We want to open up discussion that will perhaps question our own positions within a specific school of thought – a position which follows in Chris Tilley’s footsteps to some extent, in which he argues that as archaeologists, we arise in what is essentially an ‘undisciplined world’.
And the most intriguing title:
The evanescent milkman cometh: archaeologies of obscure complexities, actions, formation and transformation
Reuben Thorpe (University College London)
This session will focus on theory and methods that aim to tease out social process and social/physical mechanics that lie behind issues of site formation, residuality, redeposition and transformation.