When is contemporary archaeology anthropology?
Mark Horton (University of Bristol)
Stephanie Wynne-Jones (University of Bristol)
Nick Saunders
Wills 3.30
Start time:
9 April, 2009 at 9:30
Session slots:

Short abstract:

Recent research in contemporary archaeology emphasises that archaeology is an approach, a way of engaging. This removes its temporal limits. Has it then become anthropology?

Long abstract:

In recent years there has been a realisation that archaeology as a discipline should have no temporal limits but rather that it represents a particular way of engaging with the material world. Growing interest in the more recent and contemporary past from historical archaeology has led to research projects such as the 'excavation' of a 1991 Ford Transit Van; the survey of the Peace Camps at Greenham Common; and a study of the Long Kesh-Maze Prison in Northern Ireland. These sites and materials from contemporary culture and living memory increasingly lead archaeologists into previously unexplored anthropological territories. A focus on the contemporary past foregrounds the engaged, subjective and often political nature of archaeological inquiry, forcing disciplinary self-reflection as part of the process of discovery. By abandoning the sense that archaeology and anthropology deal with past and present respectively, we instead engage with archaeology as a way of doing, and of understanding the material world; inevitably this also leads to convergences and overlap between the two fields of engagement. This panel will explore the growing intersection between the two disciplines, with particular attention being paid to fruitful interdisciplinary borrowings and newly emerging theories, methods and practices, such as the use of ethnographic accounts and oral histories; novel recording techniques; the challenges of working at contested sites; and archaeology as contemporary social action.