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

Remembering and re-envisioning the past
Location Wills 3.31
Date and Time 8th April, 2009 at 09:00


Michael Harris (Florida Atlantic University)
Nancy Lipkin Stein (Florida Atlantic University)
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Short Abstract

While some cultural and physical artifacts retain meaning, others do not. The panel asks, when and how are local, historical ( and prehistoric) events and stories brought into the present and tied to the physical environment.

Long Abstract

How and when does the past become salient in the present? In the physical realm, guideposts such as monuments and museums, or architecture more generally, provide some limits to how people experience themselves as historically-embedded, active actors. This panel explores these limits and, more importantly, the people and places in which such limits do not exist, are not recognized, or have been obscured. The panel asks, when and how are local, historical (and prehistoric) events and stories brought into the present and tied to the physical environment. These questions stand at the juncture of ethnology and archaeology; the span between the artifact, the object, and the observer. This space is bridged conceptually in varied ways, from the symbolic and political, to the economic and psychological.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Native appropriations: ethnogenesis and the politics of anthropology in coastal Ecuador

Author: Michael Harris (Florida Atlantic University)


This paper examines the process of ethnogenesis in a coastal Ecuador village. The long-term presence of anthropological and archaeological projects, faculty, and students has profoundly affected the local self-definition or self-creation of the native as a continuous trajectory from prehistory to the present. This ethnogenesis has been forged as a strategic political utility by the people themselves in their struggles against powerful outside landholders and government authorities from the regional to the national. The choices that anthropologists make, in research and in practical matters, and the consequences such choices engender, are examined for this local context.

'I come from those ruins...' The archaeological construction of the community in the 'Pueblo Manta' (Manabí, Ecuador)

Authors: Macarena Hernández (UPO)
Esteban Ruiz-Ballesteros (Universidad Pablo de Olavide)


The personal and collective link to remnants and archaeological ruins provide a way to represent the past, a way to bond to it; but perhaps, most remarkably, a way to be in a territory, claiming and resisting in its borders. Then, the stones, the broken ceramics and walls become traces that justify the appropriation and identification with a space through time, in a way that transcend the individuals and gives consistency to the group. What is the process that makes this possible? Why does it work in some cases and not in others? It is not enough with ruins and archaeological remains: their place in space, their territorial significance, their perceptive influence, are necessary but not enough. It is the dialog between humans and those remains which builds their meaning, which shines as much as limits the social process.

Two "pueblo manteño" communities (Ecuador) are showing a clear uneven relationship with the archaeological remains found in their territories. While Agua Blanca provides us with a paradigm to illustrate the archaeological construction of a community, Salango is living almost isolated from its archaeological heritage. The key to understand this disparate account nests in the heritage appropriation process of the archaeological remains, basically, in the markedly distinctive dialogue rules that these communities have had with the walls, the vessels, and the burials that have been found in their territory.

Today, both communities are toiling in making their archaeological heritage attractive for tourism, but have a very different relationship with them, which seems a proper metaphor to understand their practices as communities.

Wood, trails and cabins: Gwich'in narratives of events

Author: Jan Peter Laurens Loovers (University of Aberdeen)


In this paper I will bring together events, narratives, persons and things. Following Ingold (2000, 2007) and taking an univocal approach (Deleuze 1974, 1987), I also argue that persons and things grow alongside each other. These weavings allow a more thorough comprehension of relations in being. Building upon fifteen months of ethnographic fieldwork with Gwich'in, Dene of northern Canada, it has become appearant that Gwich'in continue to narrate and understand their land differently from "Southerners". Focusing on the often neglected topics of trails, wood and cabins, the unfolding of these narratives and understandings-of-being will be illustrated. Remembering and re-envisioning the past, then, becomes a continuous negotiation of awareness and apprehension of particular events which are expressed, for example, through trails, wood markings, and cabins. Gwich'in, like other indigenous peoples, carry on attempting to maintain these narratives and movements 'on-the-land' and contest certain Government and Southern initiatives, which could jeopardise their relations and being-in-the-world, whilst incorporating others.

Rotting ruins in the coconut groves: remainders of handloom in Kerala

Author: Lucy Norris (Kunsthochschule Berlin Weissensee)


The tropical monsoon landscape is littered with dilapidated factories. Ruins containing rotting looms, still strung with saggy warps and wefts now interlaced with giant cobwebs, suckered creepers and suspended electrical cables. Handloom production in north Kerala has been geared to the export of furnishing materials since its industrialization in the mid-19th C. However, WTO deregulation, competition from the mechanized sectors in India and China combined with problematic local labour relations is making export difficult. Choking cotton dust, salty wastewater and dye run-offs were once polluting by-products yet also visible signs of (un)healthy production; now it is the means of production that have lost value, overgrown remains amongst the fecund landscape.

To whom are these ruins visible and in what contexts - how do they appear to have been made (in)visible through the various strategies of local weavers, entrepreneurial merchant-exporters, reforming communists, entrenched trade unions and government bureaucrats? The actors involved are as entangled and confused as the threads on the loom engulfed by nature. Sifting through inter-woven materialities, imageries, oral histories and local politics associated with the fate of weaving reveals the extraordinarily complex webs of social relations arising out of the production and sale of textiles in the area. The paper will question whether these remainders are just the unproductive 'waste' of a dead or dying industry or have they been sacrificed for the emergence of new productive relationships?

Landscapes of memory in Laos - between trauma, heroism and entertainment

Author: Oliver Tappe (University of Cologne)


Landscapes of memory - to be more specific: war memory - are increasingly developing into an economic resource in contemporary Lao People's Democratic Republic. Generally being exploited for ideological reasons as sites of heroism and revolutionary spirit, war-torn provinces such as Houaphanh and Xieng Khouang in Northern Laos are now also target areas of domestic and international tourism. Houaphanh province is highlighted by the ruling Lao People's Revolutionary Party as the "cradle of the Lao revolution". In the cave city of Viengsay, both revolutionaries and civilians sought shelter from American bombing campaigns during the Second Indochina War (1964-1973). After the revolution of 1975, the caves were used as re-education camps for members of the old elite. Finally, in the late 1990s, the caves were opened for tourists. The famous "Plain of Jars" in Xieng Khouang province was the major battlefield in Laos. Here the traumatic past is even more striking than in Houaphanh as still today, craters are scattered all over the place and unexploded ordnance lurks everywhere. The latter causes hundreds of fatalities each year making it a popular destination for thrill-seeking visitors. This paper will address the tension between trauma and entertainment that manifest itself in Lao sites of memory as representations of the country's violent past. It focuses on the discursive interplay between official glorification of the "anti-imperialist" struggle, commodification of the past for tourist consumption and individual, often traumatic memory.

The social power of public memory through presence and absence

Author: Nancy Lipkin Stein (Florida Atlantic University)


What do we know about public memory? Scholars have considered the ways our past remains with us through stories, films, and histories, or through cultural institutions such as libraries, museums, and archives. Physically, we can account for the past with symbols such as designated spaces, monuments and other structures built to recall great events or places. With so many ways to account for our past, we assume there is a need to include such a presence of the past in the present. What happens when there is no such inclusion, when you have cultural artifacts but no links, connections, no meaning associated with them? In my ethnographic data collected in Thessaloniki, Greece in 2006, 2007, and 2008, I will be examining this question. My case study provides an example of a past that can be accounted for historically through archival sources and that has material and cultural artifacts in the present but this material presence does not carry symbolic presence.

e-paper Remembering and re-invisioning the past in ecology,environment and sustainable development in India

Author: Durgadas Mukhopadhyay


It is only during the last few decades that the people, in general, have been getting more and more concerned about the urgent need for protecting the delicate ecological balance. Concern for natural ecology and development was expressed in the ancient Indian thoughts and rituals, encompassing all the five traditional elements of natural environment ,e.g. land (ksiti), water (ap), radiation or energy (tejas), wind (marut) and cosmic space (vyoman) and human activities

Hymn Rig Veda X: 146 is addressed to the Lady of the Forest, Aranyani, "she who tills not yet has stores of food" a sentence that clearly express the concept of sacred forest. She becomes fearful and destructive towards those who trespass her law.

The symbolic relationship between earth and living beings has been enunciated in Brahad- aranyaka-Upanishad (2/5/1), like:

"this earth (iyam prithivi) is helpful to all living beings (sarvesam bhutanam madhu); all living being are of helpful effect (srvani bhutani madhu) to the earth (asyai prithivyai)"

The above passage clearly implies that while the mother earth, no doubt, produces and sustains the entire biosphere, the mankind and other members of the biosphere also, in their turn, must be shaping and sustaining the earth adequately on sound principles of economy.

Dattatreya is the deity with three heads representing Hindu trinity. He received education and wisdom from twenty four elements of nature and creation. He took upon himself to protect and conserve the environment. He is the patron saint and presiding deity of the environment.