Tag Archives: feminism

Becoming Jacquetta Hawkes

It was spring when I began to write and now September has put cool fingers and a few leaves into the air. While I have written, the sea has swallowed a gobbet of land in one place, released a few square yards in another; there have been losses and gains in the flow of consciousness. Again I see the present moment as a rose or a cup held up on the stem of all that is past. Or is it perhaps after all that spiral shell in which I once heard the call of the plover; into which I can look to see all things taking shape and where the bottom-most point is one with this last convolution? From A Land.

The real Jacquetta Hawkes

The real Jacquetta Hawkes

On the surface of it, Jacquetta Hawkes and I are as different as two female archaeologists could be; she’s the “cool and formal” daughter of a Nobel prize winner who had an idyllic, genteel childhood and received a first from Cambridge while I’m a tattooed American who was bounced from one mediocre public school to the next, dumpster-diving and attending community college before I got into archaeology at the University of Texas. So when I received the invitation to participate in Raising Horizons as Jacquetta Hawkes I was flattered but confused, with the first twinges of imposter syndrome that I’ve had in a while.

As an avid theorist and maker of archaeological media, I’d looked into Jacquetta’s role in creating a film on British prehistory, and found myself immersed in Christine Finn’s excellent biography. Jacquetta was legendary, one of the greats of our profession–check out this blog entirely about her achievements. She was able to move within scientific and artistic circles, leading a remarkable life full of love and adventure.

To celebrate 200 years in geoscience, Trowelblazers is dressing up current women in archaeology in vintage costumes, taking their portraits and exhibiting them to provide role models for girls who want to get into science. How could I resist? So I trundled down to London with my baby daughter in tow for a costume fitting at a professional costume supply company, Cosprop. They dressed me up in a tweedy skirt and wellies, stuck a scarf on my head, and there was Jacquetta. I have to admit, still a bit dumpy at four months post-partum, I felt more like I reflected my indifferent roots than the patrician Englishwoman I was meant to portray.

The second trip to London was for the actual photoshoot, and I brought along a copy of A Land that I had kicking around, but shamefully had never read.

Oh–ohhhhhh! Then I got it. While I never had the benefit of posh private (UK public) schools and genteel conversations over tea, I read voraciously, desperately. I was the kid who was always ashamed, saying words the wrong way because I learned them from reading. And writing too–I wrote, wrote, wrote, notebooks full of narratives, poetry, love letters, mostly garbage, really.

When I cracked open A Land on the train, I immediately recognized another prolific, catholic abuser of the English language. Jacquetta is delightfully turgid, catastrophically broad, jumping from Rodin to Mary Anning, to lumbering sea creatures through the appreciation of the Blue Lias geological formation. Yes, she had the good sense to write bestselling books while I witter away in a blog, but still! We both worship at the altars of Proust & DH Lawrence, love adventure, and tap out great gushing gouts of purple prose. Okay.

The Fake Jacquetta Hawkes

The Fake Jacquetta Hawkes

So look out for me and Nicky Milner and Shahina Farid and other fantastic women posing as our honored predecessors in the coming weeks. But also, please support the Raising Horizons campaign.

We want to ensure that women in the sciences not only receive recognition for the accomplishments of a previous generation but also to show girls that they too can grow up to pursue a life of discovery, adventure, and fascination with the past.

Feminism & Scholarly Piracy: A Love Note

Dear Feminist Archaeologists,

Not enough of your writing is freely available online. I feel like a bit of a jerk for pointing this out, but it’s becoming a real problem. I know, you fought like hell for your education, your academic position, and your publications where you finally risked all of these things to write about feminism and archaeology. And now you are being asked to give it away for free? Yeah, I know. I feel the same way when I cross my little Creative Commons/Open Source/Open Content fingers and publish with one of the Big Bads in hope of having a “real job” someday. How dare I ask you to make knowledge free when you’ve paid every single personal price just to get to the point where you can write something meaningful, good, true, and, astonishingly, get it into print?

But you are rapidly becoming invisible. These classics, these gems of texts that I hold closest to my heart are often buried in edited volumes–Susan Kus’ Ideas are like burgeoning grains on a young rice stalk: Some ideas on theory in anthropological archaeology, is a gray, dead non-link. The horrible smudged photocopy I read when I was an undergraduate lit my brain on fire! Sometimes you can get pieces of these classics through Google books, like Julia Hendon’s Feminist Perspectives and the Teaching of Archaeology: Implications from the Inadvertent Ethnography of the Classroom, but only pieces, and it has a low citation score. This is crap. This is Not Right.

Perhaps playing into the self-promotion game is too masculinist–a lot of the trowelblazing feminists of the 1980s and 1990s are retiring, have better things to do, and don’t seem to engage with the ragged glory of struggling for name recognition in our freakish neoliberal academic rat race. Worse yet, a lot of these authors found refuge in edited volumes, where their ideas found traction amongst like-minded authors and weren’t batted away by journal gatekeepers who did not find value in feminist ideas in archaeology. Yet the mid-90s edited volume is a particular publication black hole–too recent to escape copyright policing, and too old to be pirated and passed around in pdf.

So I submit to you, our finest doyennes of feminist archaeology, put your publications online. Put them in as many places as you can. Sow & germinate widely. I jumped for joy when I saw Diane Gifford Gonzalez’s You can hide, but you can’t run: representation of women’s work in illustrations of paleolithic life was available. Hilarious! Divine!

We need your archive. It is not enough to be tucked away on a shelf any longer. There is no reward for the intrepid researcher to unearth your lovely writing–peer reviewers are unlikely to point out the omission. Because the reviewers haven’t read it. They don’t even know it exists. There is so much that is more readily available and it’s damned unfair that you are disappearing in the deluge. Please, it’s too important.

Love & all my esteem,

Colleen

Where are the Female Contemporary Archaeologists?

Citational communities can be at turns fascinating, infuriating, and utterly destructive. Literature is easier than ever to search for, but there’s also an unholy amount of it out there–while I was finishing my thesis on digital archaeology I had to cut off my research references at 2011 or else be crushed under an unending tidal wave of words. It’s worse when you do very interdisciplinary work, and even worse when you move between two very large research communities, USA and Europe, and get reviewed by scholars from all over the world. I’m glad I don’t deal much with other languages or I think I’d run off into the Pennines, never to be seen again. It’s deadening. Impossible. Right?

So it’s tempting to cite Latour, five of your good friends, then send your work off to the journal, figuring that the peer reviewers will ask you to cite THEIR research as well, and be done with it. There’s constant snide struggles between academics at even the top levels who intentionally do not cite each other, and perpetuate this onto their students, who advance within an echo chamber, only occasionally stumbling on the other work later down the road. It’s disheartening.

But sometimes it’s just citational communities–when I took my methods & theory class at UC Berkeley, the professors teaching it told us that they were making us Berkeley Archaeologists, giving us their particular take on current literature. I deeply appreciated this. Still, when we reach outside of our citational community, we tap the works of the Great Thinkers and pat ourselves on the backs for being such fashion-forward interdisciplinary academics, truly expanding the field.

Then you see yet another volume of archaeologists talking to each other without referencing anyone outside of their small circle.

Then you see a talk that provides a survey of a particular subfield where not a SINGLE woman is referenced.

Then you see a whole panel of editors for a new journal without any women.

And this doesn’t even take into account indigenous scholars, people of color, non-Western scholars, etc, because that’s so utterly depressing that I can’t even start.

So it was with great interest that I read Zoe Todd’s “An Indigenous Feminist’s take on the Ontological Turn” who articulates this so much better than I ever could:

So, for every time you want to cite a Great Thinker who is on the public speaking circuit these days, consider digging around for others who are discussing the same topics in other ways. Decolonising the academy, both in europe and north america, means that we must consider our own prejudices, our own biases. Systems like peer-review and the subtle violence of european academies tend to privilege certain voices and silence others.

She provides a “cheat sheet,” a list of people who have been thinking about, in this case, the Ontological Turn for decades. Brilliant.

In this spirit, I’ve started a list of Female Contemporary Archaeologists, for our own “cite this, not that” list. When I emailed the list to a few colleagues to get it started, there was the recognition that a lot of these women don’t have positions in the academy, were not able to operationalize non-standard archaeological practice into so-called “real jobs.” Still, many continue to publish and contribute to archaeology and do fantastic, citable work. The list is editable, please add publications, names, keywords, anything you can think of:

Female Contemporary Archaeologists

I encourage you to set up your own “cheat sheets” and edit them, share them, and consider accordingly evaluating the next hiring decision, the next conference–heck, scan the references of the next paper you write. Who is your citational community? Are you perpetuating a hetero-normative, racist, colonialist, male-dominated academy, even while speaking in emancipatory tropes?

Humanizing our Heroes

Please don’t ask the question about favorite cocktails and best hot-tub parties/worst hot-tub parties. The answers to those questions have no longevity. They have no bearing on what the contributions of these two women are to the discipline. A number of efforts recently have focused on recording interviews with major figures in anthropology. Do you think in 20 years anyone will find it informative that their favorite drink was a martini? It isn’t relevant. Please don’t do it.

I received this thought-provoking comment on the last blog post and I thought it was interesting enough to give a longer and more visible answer than a comment response would provide.  I completely understand this viewpoint, especially in terms of lending our strong, feminist leaders the amount of respect they are absolutely entitled to receive.  I think it is contextual, and I suppose the casual academic culture of UC Berkeley archaeology can be a little startling to outsiders.

I didn’t write the “questionable” questions, but they were authored by current and past students who adore Meg and Ruth. I will be conducting and editing the interview and they trust me to be respectful AND playful–they trained me, after all. I also find that questions such as “favorite cocktail” can loosen the subject of the interview up, making them more comfortable in front of the camera.

I think that Meg and Ruth are both too interesting to be kept contained in strictly defined boundaries of their legacies within the profession. I hope that this interview will reflect what we experience as students–their generosity in wisdom and spirit, not that good archaeology is Serious Business.  I spoke to Ruth about that very topic yesterday when I mentioned this comment and viewpoint.  Her reaction was sadness–many times throughout her career she’s had to fight against the perception that she was not doing “real” archaeology, when anyone who knows the history of her career can see how her work has always pushed the boundaries of practice.

But I’m biased, obviously.

And hell, I’d love to know what cocktail Mortimer Wheeler favored. Anyone know?

Personal Histories at Cambridge (2 & 3)

Though they don’t seem to be terribly popular, here are parts two and three of the series:

Personal Histories at Cambridge

Meg Conkey, Ruth Tringham, Henrietta Moore, and Alison Wylie were asked to speak at Cambridge for the Personal Histories in Archaeological Theory and Method series, and happily there is video of the talk.  If you’ve never had an archaeological theory class, these women are all formative thinkers in feminist, structuralist and post-processual archaeology.  I uploaded the first part to youtube and will upload the other two parts later today, but if you are impatient for the rest, go here for the files.  I chose to go to Berkeley in part because of the presence of women in the department at all faculty levels, two of whom are speaking in this video (and, incidentally, are on my dissertation committee!).

This first segment is great–Meg Conkey and Henrietta Moore introduce themselves (they decided to go in alphabetical order, but also by height) and there’s a pan to Colin Renfrew in the audience.  I wish I could have been there, but even more I wish I could have been out to drinks with all of them afterwards!

So if you have any interest at all in feminism and archaeology, you might want to check these personal stories out.