ASA09: Anthropological and archaeological imaginations: past, present and future
Bristol, UK

(P31)
The archaeology and anthropology of the imaginative and imagined self
Location Wills G27
Date and Time 9th April, 2009 at 09:30

Convenor

Iain Edgar (Durham University) i.r.edgar@durham.ac.uk
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Short Abstract

This workshop intends to develop a shared approach to the imaginative inner worlds of people(s) living and deceased. The two disciplines perhaps intersect, at least symbolically, in the study of what I tentatively describe as the anthropology and archaeology of the imaginative and intuitive self.

Long Abstract

Both Anthropology and Archaeology make surmises from the observation of primarily outer events to hypotheses about living and deceased humans as to their mental processes and lived social and cultural milieus. There are epistemological, interpersonal and methodological issues which intersect and often constrain such interpretations of lived human experiences, be they contemporary or past. However, both disciplines perhaps intersect, at least symbolically, in the study of what I tentatively describe as the anthropology and archaeology of the imaginative and intuitive self.

Jung developed his ground-breaking concept of the collective unconscious through a highly significant 'archaeological' dream in which he, in his dream, explored the various parts of an old house including its cellars and various skeletal and other cultural remains there. This led him to formulate his concept of the collective unconscious which proposed that all humans contained a universal substratum of unconscious experience which imaginatively stretched through time and space. This symbolic treasure house was the inner well out of which collective myths and personal dreams were fashioned and often brought in various ways into public cultures. Jung further developed the practice of 'active imagination' as a way of encountering such inner phenomenological possibilities.

This workshop invites papers that explores the notion of a shared archaeological and anthropological study of the human imagination in all its diverse theoretical and applied possibilities. One such shared arena would be the interaction found between the shrines of dead saints/shayks/gurus and their followers' pilgrimages, devotions, prayers and visionary/dreamt inspirational and therapeutic encounters.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Hypothesising an archaeology and anthropology of the imagined self

Author: Iain Edgar (Durham University) i.r.edgar@durham.ac.uk

Abstract

Both Anthropology and Archaeology make surmises from the observation of primarily outer events to hypotheses about living and deceased humans as to their mental processes and lived social and cultural milieus. There are epistemological, interpersonal and methodological issues which intersect and often constrain such interpretations of lived human experiences, be they contemporary or past. However, both disciplines perhaps intersect, at least symbolically, in the study of what I tentatively describe as the anthropology and archaeology of the imaginative and intuitive self.

Jung developed his ground-breaking concept of the collective unconscious through a highly significant 'archaeological' dream in which he, in his dream, explored the various parts of an old house including its cellars and various skeletal and other cultural remains there. This led him to formulate his concept of the collective unconscious which proposed that all humans contained a universal substratum of unconscious experience which imaginatively stretched through time and space. This symbolic treasure house was the inner well out of which collective myths and personal dreams were fashioned and often brought in various ways into public cultures. Jung further developed the practice of 'active imagination' as a way of encountering such inner phenomenological possibilities.

One such shared arena would be the interaction found between the shrines of dead saints/shayks/gurus and their followers' pilgrimages, devotions, prayers and visionary/dreamt inspirational and therapeutic encounters.

Materialising religious experience in Roman Britain

Author: Zena Kamash (Oxford University) zena.kamash@arch.ox.ac.uk

Abstract

Religious experience in Roman Britain was vibrant and complex as this was a period that witnessed the introduction of a variety of new cults and practices alongside long-established, yet diverse ritual activities. Excavations of temples and sanctuaries in Roman Britain have revealed a lot of information about the objects that were used in the rituals and religious activities of the period. Some of these objects were made specifically to be used and deposited at religious sites such as lead curse tablets, miniature objects, altars, figurines etc. Large parts of the finds assemblages from these sites, however, comprise mundane objects, such as coins, personal decorative and toilet items (eg hairpins, brooches, nail-cleaners etc) and cooking and dining equipment, that had roles in everyday life. This raises several questions about the nature of so-called 'votive' objects and how we can approach understandings of them. The places in which these objects were used and deposited can maybe inform us about how these objects were perceived and also about what 'powers', if any, they may have been thought to possess. Drawing on approaches from prehistoric archaeology and other disciplines such as anthropology, this paper will outline some possible ways of thinking about the objects and spaces in which they were experienced in order to reach deeper understandings about human interaction and negotiation with the material world.

Ethnographic archaeology of the South Asian self in a Pakistani Muslim village

Author: Stephen Lyon (Durham University) S.M.Lyon@durham.ac.uk

Abstract

The complex tapestry of South Asian Islam owes much to the rich religious background in which it flourishes. Without wanting to question the religious devotion of Pakistani Muslims, I examine ongoing non-Islamic mixing across Punjab. Using archeology as inspiration rather than method, I focus on religious pasts as revealed in contemporary rituals practiced in Punjab, Pakistan. This is illustrative not only of what has been called syncretic Islam, but also of the cultural systems underlying the development of Punjabi notions of the self. The paper concentrates on practices associated with shrines of Muslim and Sikh pir or saints. Such sufi-like saints are deeply embedded in the history of Islam across the Muslim world, and, arguably, adopt a wide range of pre-Islamic rituals and symbols. In Punjab, such rituals are reminiscent of Hindu and Sikh worship. Here I compare devotional practices in three locations in northern Punjab: the tomb of Baba Shaikh Daud on the outskirts of Bhalot village, Kalyam Sharif south of Rawalpindi and Hassan Abdal. The first is a minor local saint who died perhaps 170 years ago. The second, is home to a number of living saints who are the descendants of previous saints. The third, Hassan Abdal, is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for Sikhs. Concentrating on the practices and discourses of Muslims around each of these sites, this paper explores the extent to which the past remains a living and active part of local constructions of the self in Punjab, Pakistan.

'We are distant lands': the anthropology of lyric poetry among Afghan refugees in Iran

Author: Zuzanna Olszewska (University of Oxford) zolszewska@gmail.com

Abstract

This paper deals with the anthropological study of literary representations of the individual and collective self in lyric poetry. It proposes that literary traditions, like Jung's dream house, are symbolic treasure troves of genres, tropes and rhetorical conventions that enable or constrain imaginative expression. An anthropological approach to literature must address epistemological problems about the degree to which literature 'reflects' social reality. To what extent is that reality - and indeed, the very concepts of imagination and self - mediated by literary conventions, audiences and moral economies of creative expression?

I address these questions in the context of the contemporary poetry of Shi'a, Persian-speaking Afghan refugees in Iran. While sharing a language, religion and literary canon with their hosts, Afghan refugees remain socio-economically marginal in Iran. A group of young, Iranian-educated intellectuals has embraced literature as its primary discursive tool, and in the past decade lyric poetry has become a major expressive mode, in sharp contrast with the epic war poetry of the previous generation.

This paper, based on a year of fieldwork with Afghan poets in Iran, examines the rhetorical strategies, genres and personality tropes adopted by a number of young Afghans to represent their individual and collective selves from the margins of Iranian society. These range from appeals to Islamic brotherhood to an alienated exilic identity; from an expansive cosmopolitanism to assertive, sexually provocative feminism. These must be read in the context of modernist developments in Persian poetry in the past century, as well as the millennium-old Persian literary canon.