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

(Plen1)
Divorce and partial reconciliation: twentieth century disciplinary trajectories in social anthropology and archaeology
Location Great Hall
Date and Time 6th April, 2009 at 16:15

Convenor

David Shankland (Royal Anthropological Institute) david.shankland@therai.org.uk
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Short Abstract

We begin our discussion in the first plenary deliberately in broad terms, by considering the dialogue between archaeology and anthropology over the last century, and how it may manifest itself in the future. Tim Ingold looks forward to a time when the disciplinary boundary simply may no longer be relevant. Chris Hann looks at the way archaeology and anthropology together may be used in the study of the past, and Rosemary Joyce at the way that the debate concerning materiality may affect the interplay between the two disciplines. Between them, these opening case studies cover much of the thematic ground that we will explore in detail in the coming three days.

Long Abstract

We begin our discussion in the first plenary deliberately in broad terms, by considering the dialogue between archaeology and anthropology over the last century, and how it may manifest itself in the future. Tim Ingold looks forward to a time when the disciplinary boundary simply may no longer be relevant. Chris Hann looks at the way archaeology and anthropology together may be used in the study of the past, and Rosemary Joyce at the way that the debate concerning materiality may affect the interplay between the two disciplines. Between them, these opening case studies cover much of the thematic ground that we will explore in detail in the coming three days.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Big revolutions, two small disciplines and socialism

Author: Chris Hann (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology) hann@eth.mpg.de

Abstract

The concept of a 'big revolution' has been developed in the history and philosophy of science. Its application to human history in general is at least equally contentious. Was the origin of the human species one big revolution or were there several somewhat smaller ones? Was industrial capitalism the outcome of a single dramatic rupture, or did Karl Polanyi greatly exaggerate the 'Great Transformation' of the nineteenth century? This paper will focus on the rise and fall of Marxist-Leninist-Maoist socialism in the twentieth century. Contrary to the common perception that socialism was irreducibly modern (a cousin, sibling or even a twin of Polanyi's postulated rupture), I shall argue that it has abundant precedents in past concerns with equality. The two small disciplines of anthropology and archaeology need to work together in the investigation of continuity and change throughout human evolution. It is important that they make their voices heard, and are not swept aside by a 'big revolution' called 'cognitive science(s)'.

Life with things: archaeology and materiality

Author: Rosemary Joyce (University of California, Berkeley) rajoyce@Berkeley.edu

Abstract

The recent re-emergence of materiality as a key topic for social scientists and humanists has at times seemed to be taking place without centrally engaging archaeology, a set of disciplinary approaches that is founded fundamentally on the proposition that we can talk about the lives people led in the past through the things that persisted from that past to our present. This is not to say that archaeologists have remained silent in debates about "the social lives of things", "object agency", or even ANT. But even as these discussions produce a productive blurring of lines that sees ethnographers studying ancient Moche pots and Inka khipus, and archaeologists looking at the way that Las Vegas circulates Egyptica, it seems that often archaeologists are talking past our interlocutors. Archaeologists claim a specific expert position in these discussions based on our long history of grounding in materiality, even as the status of materiality as grounding is called into question. But as we use the terms of craft that we have tested and come to trust over generations, we may in fact be failing to adequately account for the complex models of circulation of things that our terminologies index. In this presentation, I draw on a series of recent analyses in which I have presented linked case studies in rethinking the language of archaeological materiality in order to reframe the understandings that archaeology provides of life with things, understandings that should be a central contribution to contemporary transdisciplinary considerations of materiality.

No more ancient; no more human: the future past of archaeology and anthropology

Author: Tim Ingold (University of Aberdeen) tim.ingold@abdn.ac.uk

Abstract

Imagine a future in which the divisions between anthropology and archaeology, which so exercised our predecessors, have disappeared. Even the disciplinary prefixes, archaeo- and anthropo-, have lost their appeal, as we have come to realise that although the world’s inhabitants follow in the ways of their predecessors, none are more ancient than any other, nor others more modern, and that the distinction between knowing and being that underwrites the concept of the human is unsustainable. Looking back, the intellectual historians of this future will wonder how the scientists of today have been so beguiled by a theory that can only comprehend the evolution of being in nature as an evolution of knowing out of it, and will puzzle over the consequent construction of original humans as curiously constituted hybrids of genes and culture. They will chart the messy implosion of these ways of thinking and the humbling of big science in the wake of the collapse of the institutions of finance on which it depended. And they will tell of how, like small mammals in the last age of the dinosaurs, today’s disciplines of anthropology and archaeology survived the maelstrom, quietly ushering in a genuine revolution in the way we see ourselves. Together they went on to lay the foundations of a new, post-human science, at last realising the dream of Giambattista Vico three centuries previously, that starts from the recognition that knowing is itself a practice of habitation, of dwelling in a world that is continually growing over.