Tag Archives: punk

Punk (Archaeology) Part Two

Where were you
Where the hell were you
Not around for punk part two

You know punk is really dead when archaeologists write about it, right?

I published my paper from Christopher Matthews’ 2015 SHA session on Punk Archaeology, which, for me, grew out of my earlier piece for Bill Caraher, The Young Lions of Archaeology. I was able to expand on my earlier thoughts to lay out a program for punk archaeology, and explore its DIY and anarchist roots. It was a fun paper to write, thanks to AP: Online Journal in Public Archaeology for publishing it, and, in particular, Jaime Almansa Sánchez for enduring my endless harassment.

You can read the full paper here:

Morgan, C. 2015. Punk, DIY, and Anarchy in Archaeological Thought and Practice, AP: Online Journal in Public Archaeology, 5, 123-146.

The abstract:

Recent developments in archaeological thought and practice involve a seemingly disparate selection of ideas that can be collected and organized as contributing to an anti-authoritarian, “punk” archaeology. This includes the contemporary archaeology of punk rock, the DIY and punk ethos of archaeological labor practices and community involvement, and a growing interest in anarchist theory as a productive way to understand communities in the past. In this article I provide a greater context to contemporary punk, DIY, and anarchist thought in academia, unpack these elements in regard to punk archaeology, and propose a practice of punk archaeology as a provocative and productive counter to fast capitalism and structural violence.

Here’s a bonus Ghoulies track, covering Billy Bragg’s A New England. Bless the Groovie Ghoulies for their goofy, bouncy, monster-infused pop punk. Sadly the studio versions don’t really convey the speed & snarl of the Ghoulies live show, but isn’t that always the case?

SHA 2015: Punk as Organizing Structure and Ethos for Emancipatory Archaeological Practice

archaeo-core2

Tongue-in-cheek portrait of me by my oldest friend, Jesse Kulenski. He also designs the defcon t-shirts, check him out: https://www.facebook.com/designbyjesse

I am very happy to participate in another conference I’ve never been to before–the SHA 2015 Conference on Historical and Underwater Archaeology, as part of a Punk Public Archaeology session organized by Christopher Matthews. John Lowe and I have been talking about punk and archaeology for a long time now, glad to have a chance to talk about some of those ideas.

Title: Punk as Organizing Structure and Ethos for Emancipatory Archaeological Practice

Abstract:

Think about the kind of revolution you want to live and work in. What do you need to know to start that revolution? Demand that your teachers teach you that.” -Big Daddy Soul

The basic principles of punk archaeology reflect an anarchist ethos: voluntary membership in a community and participation in this community. Building things–interpretations, sites, bonfires, earth ovens, Harris Matrices–together. Foregrounding political action and integrity in our work. It is the work of the punk archaeologist to “expose, subvert, and undermine structures of domination…in a democratic fashion” (Graeber 2004:7). Public archaeology and community archaeology are embedded in this project; punk archaeology is collectivist action, with especial attention to marginalized and disenfranchised peoples. In this paper I present punk archaeology as a provocative and productive counter to fast capitalism and structural violence.

Graeber, D. (2004). Fragments of an anarchist anthropology. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press.

The Young Lions of Archaeology

punkarchaeologyhandbill

(Written for William Caraher’s brilliant Punk Archaeology meeting in Fargo, North Dakota.) 

“This…hon…here.” I kneel in the trench, scraping away at the dirt with my trowel. Teaching digging, teaching how to see. “Tamam? Okay?” But I realize that my students and/or workmen are not looking at the dirt, they are not looking at the texture changes, they are not trying to discern the transition from the Byzantine to the Mamluk. One of the dirty, ragged cuffs of my long-sleeved shirt has ridden up, revealing faint swirls of color on my skin. My tattoos are faded, obscured by a salty rime of evaporated sweat. Later, when they are more comfortable with me, I expect questions about the tattoos. How many do you have? How long have you had them? How long did they take? But…you are a woman? Over the years my answers to these questions have changed in tenor, but I have settled on the explanation that has the most resonance: they’re traditional in my culture.

I need a second skin/something to hold me up

Fictive kinship, or kinship that does not rely on marital or blood ties, is a classic, though dated and thoroughly critiqued concept in anthropology. Kinship is obviously relative, if you will forgive the wordplay, and ties of love and obligation can bind through a near-infinite amount of variables. I think of kinship in the active tense; I kin to people, I understand, empathize and appreciate some people more than other people. My kin tend to have a lot of tattoos, drink cheap lager, and a deep reverence for live music, though they’d surely find the exception to any such proposed definition. I learned a sense of kinship through punk; I learned to find others who participated fully and passionately, who were politically minded, vocal, contrarian, who spoke plainly through microphones, records and zines.

I want you to know people who laugh too loud/And have to get drunk to find the right words/And can’t sleep ’til the colors are just right.

I carried this sense of urgency and community with me, nearly 2,000 miles away to graduate school, ready to shake the world. I very quickly learned to stick my nose in a book and to hide my tattoos. I missed my kin horribly. I had colleagues now, and they were not interested in listening to records or going to shows and even if they were it was something to do, not something you were. I did not have imposter syndrome, I had infiltrator syndrome. Before my MA exam I slid my headphones over my ears, locked myself in the department bathroom and listened to the irreverent roar of the X-Ray Spex and told myself that no matter what happened, academics could not take this away from me. No matter how they saw my work, my aptitude, my ability to theorize and categorize, this piece of me would stay strong and true.

I know I’m artificial/But don’t put the blame on me/I was reared with appliances/In a consumer society

This is still true. Graduate school provided fire and forge and I came out very different on the other side. The conservatism of punk, the inflexibility and strident nihilism was no longer feasible. My tattoos faded under the hot sun of excavations and I met a whole phantasmagoria of people who took life in their teeth.

I am the animal/With no pockets in my pants.

Still, I kept the possibly quaint ideal of kin and kept practicing what I felt was the best practices for a punk archaeologist. Membership in a community and participation in this community. Building things–interpretations, sites, bonfires, earth ovens, Harris Matrices–together. Foregrounding political action and integrity in our work.

Think about the kind of revolution you want to live and work in. What do you need to know to start that revolution. Demand that your teachers teach you that.

The Young Lions Conspiracy, led by Big Daddy Soul (né Tim Kerr), was a minor movement in the garage punk/Austin scene that called for “integrity, soul, attitude” in every aspect of life. He asked, “What are YOU doing to participate?” I have not been to a punk rock show in a while, and my tribe of tattooed drinking punks have changed, moved on, and do not need to be used to typify an attitude or remain static in their decades-old resistance. They too have forged their own lives; they own homes, have children, even changed political allegiances, but we have the same scrawls on our skin, even if I’m half a world away.

And I still have my Young Lions membership card tucked away in my wallet. This. This is traditional in my culture.