P24
If anthropologists had digs
Convenors:
James Leach (CNRS)
Dawn Nafus (Intel)
Thomas Yarrow (Durham University)
Chair:
James Leach
Discussant:
Robin Osborne
Location:
Wills 3.32
Start time:
9 April, 2009 at 9:30
Session slots:
1

Short abstract:

Anthropology has traditionally been a single investigator affair, while archaeology thrives on many co-ordinated small scale data collecting projects. For anthropology, are there questions that are better answered using many co-ordinated, smaller efforts? What are the potentials and constraints?

Long abstract:

Anthropology has traditionally been a single investigator, single fieldsite affair. While there are occasional collaborations and participation in interdisciplinary projects, on the whole we still do not make it a habit of working in large teams, or solicit resource levels that would support them. On the other hand, archaeology thrives on many co-ordinated small scale data collecting projects: no single dig is ever enough. For anthropology, are there questions that are better answered using analogously multiple, smaller efforts? For example, Susan Leigh Starr begins her famous early study of infrastructure by lamenting that she is but one person in the face of intricate layers of technical arrangements and diverse human interventions in the system. Clearly there are issues of contextualisation to consider, of breadth/depth, and of integration. Do we need to hold on to the single investigator model of knowledge production as the core to anthropological methodology? Are there new areas of enquiry that might open up with some methodological experimentation? What are the potentials, and what are the issues we would need to consider? This panel proposes to hold a conversation between anthropologists and archaeologists on the issue of what is there about archaeological practice that anthropologists might adopt and adapt? We also wish to address the epistemological issues that arise when putting together a context out of multiple sites, the practical issues of what might constitute an anthropological 'dig', and how the politics of knowledge production and career paths might be best negotiated.