Fredrik Andersson and Johannes Siapkas are arranging a workshop entitled ‘Resisting Archaeology’ to be held at the University of Uppsala in May 2007. Please see below for the call for papers.
This is an invitation to a discussion on archaeology as a critical practice. That is, a discussion taking its point of departure in the notion that archaeology as a discourse can be a critique of the contemporary and not defined by its relation to the past.
Archaeology is commonly defined as a practice dealing with the traces of the past in the present. Archaeological dialogues focus by tradition on issues regarding the past. The interpretative side of archaeological practices, in contrast to the scientific and descriptive sides, has been stressed recently, emphasizing the significance of situating archaeology in the present. Contextual approaches as well as studies in the field of the politics of the past are two examples. While the interpretative effects and limitations of archaeological practices are stressed, these approaches leave a considerable theoretical blind spot, since they evade self-critical illuminations of the archaeological.
The polemical debates of the 1980s and 1990s are cherished memories by now. The critical side of archaeology seems to have vanished from the agenda as the theoretical debate became milder. Nevertheless, the relevance of archaeology in contemporary cultural and political discourses has not changed as drastically as to explain the current empirical (re-)turn.
We feel that archaeology, with a few notable examples, has failed to define itself as a critical practice, in the full sense of the word. That is, archaeologists are not encouraging a discussion focusing on the foundations of their own discourse, which is the prime purpose of a critical practice. Critique in archaeology is commonly viewed as a mean towards the end of further improving our understanding of the past. This is an illusionary critique since archaeology (in its ideal/utopian form) is not subjected to examination. If archaeology is viewed as a disciplinary place, then it is characterized by its steady outward-looking practices. Adopting a critical perspective, in contrast, means that the focus is turned inwards to the archaeological place as such, aiming to illuminate the above-mentioned blind spot.
Accordingly, we aim to initiate a critical debate about archaeology today. While elaborations on how others (e.g. laymen, politicians, commercial enterprises, and disciplinary predecessors) use archaeology are common, there is a lack of self-critical studies on our own practices. We invite papers that explore the position of archaeology in our contemporary world, and welcome particularly contributions examining how archaeology contributes to sustain modernity.
The workshop will take place 17-20 May 2007 at the Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Uppsala University, Sweden. The discussion will be based on pre-circulated papers. Participants should be prepared to submit a manuscript prior to the meeting and a final paper for publication after the workshop. Please submit a 250-word abstract to Johannes.Siapkas AT antiken.uu.se or Fredrik.Andersson AT arkeologi.uu.se by 31 May 2006.