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

Interdisciplinary interfaces: third dialogical spaces where archaeology and anthropology meet
Location Wills 1.5
Date and Time 8th April, 2009 at 14:30


Claudine Young (Aberystwyth University)
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

In acknowledgement of contemporary processes of genre blurring and the increasing shattering of disciplinary boundaries more widely, this panel hopes to examine how other disciplines are providing third dialogical spaces in which archaeological and anthropological knowledges meet.

Long Abstract

The situation of ontological and epistemelogical insecurity within individual academic disciplines, often referred to as the uncertainty of the "postmodern condition", can potentially be perceived as conceptually liberating. More particularly and within the context of this conference, knowledges which once existed within the exclusive frameworks of archaeology and anthropology are now increasingly filtering into other fields of study.

This panel aims to look at how other disciplines are providing dialogical spaces in which the archaeological and anthropological imaginations are woven together with other theory and data to create new emerging hybrid discourses. It will examine whether academics working within other disciplines understand the relationship between archaeology and anthropology as problematic or complementary, and will aim to to open up discussions relating to methodological and theoretical issues arising from collaborative research carried out in a variety of combinations. This will inevitably lead to an exploration of the heterogeneous and plural nature of knowledges, and how they interrelate, perhaps from the perspectives of hermeneutics and intertextuality.

Papers are sought from contributors who have constructively considered the above and whose research falls outside the fixed disciplines of archaeology and anthropology, but involves the use of both archaeological and anthropological knowledges, and who are reflexively aware of the successes and limitations of such work. Suggested fields may include politics, law, religious studies, human geography and theatre/film studies - although this list is not exhaustive.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


First space: on 'being' a researcher

Author: Alex Franklin (University of the West of England)


All anthropological and archaeological knowledges or 'facts' are mediated by at least one researcher before their dissemination to an audience, and the impact of this mediation on the resultant texts must be understood if the potentially solipsistic cultural relativism of the "postmodern condition" is to be addressed. This, in and of itself, is not a particularly radical notion - the gender, sexuality, religion, etc, of the researcher having been problematised in a variety of critical discourses for at least several decades - but what is proposed here, rather, is an analysis of a somewhat more fundamental nature; one that explores the concept of the researcher as a 'Being' and, at least initially, strips away such cultural inflections of the researcher's 'self' to concentrate upon what it means to be an inquiring Being. Only once the researcher's experience of being a 'Being' in the world has been examined, and 'this must be done explicitly, even at the risk of discussing the 'obvious'' (Heidegger, Being and Time 1997: 81), can an attempt be made to qualify its impact on their reaction to the physical world and the artefacts and beings therein.

This paper builds upon current discourses that endeavour to reintroduce the 'agency' of studied individuals into the anthropological and archaeological records, but argues that before the agency of others manifested by their material and cultural practices can be understood, the researcher must necessarily understand their own being and subsequent relationship with others and external 'things'.

The protection of cultural property: archaeology, anthropology or another way?

Author: Shea Esterling (Aberystwyth University)


Legal research regarding cultural property focuses on its illicit trafficking which fuels its flow from source to market states and ultimately generates demands repatriation typically by successor states and indigenous peoples. While the response to these demands for repatriation by the international legal community lag behind, many individual states have developed detailed and complex domestic laws for the repatriation of cultural property typically for the benefit of their indigenous populations. To achieve the ends of repatriation, these law require evidence of a relationship between the disputed piece of cultural property and the indigenous group asserting a claim for repatriation. Ultimately, it is here in providing evidence of this relationship that both archaeologists and anthropologists play a key role in determining the fate of these repatriation claims.

In turn, this presentation seeks to explore further how this space within the discipline of the law and more specially within the area of cultural property law provides a third space where archeology and anthropology can meet. Moreover, after exploring how these disciplines meet within this legal context, the remainder of the presentation will focus on theoretical and practical consequences that flow from this interaction for all three disciplines.

Textual ethnography: theological ethics as a dialogical locus for anthropology and archaeology

Author: Kristel Clayville (University of Chicago)


Within the study of religion, the field of Theological Ethics provides a unique meeting point for anthropology and archaeology. Both of these disciplines are integral to posing and approaching the main questions of the field: What does it mean to be human? And as humans, how ought we live? Theological Ethics is, at its core, an interdisciplinary field of study, yet the contributions of both the matter and the methods of anthropology and archaeology are not always recognized or fully appreciated. This paper proposes to outline some of those contributions, while also arguing for the interdependence of anthropology and archaeology as they are viewed and used in the field of Theological Ethics. In short, Theological Ethics provides a vantage point from which anthropology and archaeology can be seen as mutually informative.

The task of theological ethicists, whether undertaken explicitly or assumed, is to formulate anthropologies, or conceptions of human life that account for and aim to amend our human condition. Within the Judeo-Christian tradition these anthropologies are drawn from textual artifacts, which are interpreted in a myriad of ways, and then used as beginning points or limits on anthropological constructions. These anthropologies are augmented by observations of human activity and lived experience. Thus, the process of constructing a theological anthropology engages both anthropology and archaeology, providing a dialogical locus for the two disciplines. This paper will highlight this process by proposing a theological anthropology that is explicit about drawing on these two disciplines.

Development studies and local histories

Author: Nick White (University of Sussex)


(Mis)understandings of local histories--whether acknowledged or not--have always been central to development studies. As a discipline focused on directing the present to acheive a particular future, development has traditionally favoured linear and generalisable narratives of the past in understanding the problems observed by its practitioners.

As the discipline moved its focus from general wealth generation to a reduction of poverty, the primary site of interest moved from the national to a more local level.

In large part thanks to critiques from anthropology, the field of development gradually became aware of the suppression of local voices by understanding problems through specific Western and neo-liberal discourses. Techniques such as Participatory Rural Appraisal were developed as a way of countering this, taking much from the domain of social anthropology.

However development studies remains couched in the discourses of its major sponsors, and as such has been unwilling or unable to gain and apply a fuller understanding of time and place for local people.

The social and ideological significance of sky lore in prehistoric societies

Author: Emilia Pásztor (Matrica Museum)


Archaeological finds indicate ideological and social changes growing from the late Middle Bronze Age and developed into a most likely organized system in large part of Central Europe including the Carpathian Basin by the Late Bronze Age. There is good evidence that celestial phenomena or rather their influence in archaeological remains emphasises a particularly important role. During the Bronze Age the increasing use of special symbols assumed to be solar is well known and easily discernible on different types of archaeological artefacts. Anthropological research also proves that celestial events may exert a great or even decisive influence on the life of communities. The strong impact of and following from this the respect of the sun and/or the moon might go as far back into the past as the early history of the human beings. The emergent novelty of the Bronze Age is however to create an ideological background by applying celestial phenomena which support the shaping of a society of rank. Limits of generalization, however is strongly emphasised as it can often lead false or arguments with slight meaning.

Criminology and archaeological and anthropological imaginations

Author: Claudine Young (Aberystwyth University)


As ethnographic studies in criminology are on the increase, some of the theoretical issues which have been raised in relation to the practice of ethnography are only beginning to be looked at in criminology, such as reflexivity and the meaning of the concept of 'culture.' Similarly, theoretical approaches to space and place used by archaeologists and anthropologists for the last fifteeen years or so, are just starting to be adopted by criminologists. Archaeological theories such as diffusionism are also potentially applicable to the spread of criminal techniques and knowledges. Clearly, there are also theoretical and allegorical links to be made between archaeological excavations and crime scene examination, and also between the reinterpretation of the past , as archaeology, and the reviewing of 'cold' criminal cases. This paper examines, then, how interdisciplinary approaches can enhance criminological knowledge.