Pluralist practices: archaeology is nothing, archaeology is everything 
Ffion Reynolds (Cardiff University)
Seren Griffiths
Merchant Venturer's 1.11a
Start time:
19 December, 2010 at 9:00 (UTC+0)
Session slots:

Short Abstract:

This session will explore the ways in which we approach our research. Essentially, we want to tackle the question: who are you? From a pluralist position one may argue that as a profession we become 'archaeologists' in a variety of ways. Do you call yourself an archaeologist first, or as in my case do you answer with a series of others labels/words? For example, are you a theorist first and foremost? Or an artist? Or are you fundamentally a writer or a philosopher? Does it matter to you how other people see your work?, or is it more to do with individual identity within a larger body of thought? How do you do your research? And how does it become archaeological? And how might your research create new concepts within archaeology? What would you like to leave behind? How would you like to be remembered? It is to these types of questions that we would like to turn to in our session. It is an opportunity to look towards ourselves in more detail, rather than to the analogies that we use. We want to open up discussion that will perhaps question our own positions within a specific school of thought - a position which follows in Chris Tilley's footsteps to some extent, in which he argues that as archaeologists, we arise in what is essentially an 'undisciplined world'.

Long Abstract

How can archaeologists engage with other material culture specialists? Is being an archaeologist an important form of self-categorisation? What does being an archaeologist mean in contemporary societies? How do we understand archaeological practice? Are there peculiarly archaeological standpoints?

Archaeological practice is distinguished by emphasis on the study of material culture. In the 1990s, after a post-structuralist, textually deconstructive phase, archaeological literature increasingly emphasised 'materiality' (e.g. Graves-Brown 2000; Miller 1998). The study of 'stuff' presents archaeologists with vast potential for subject matter, and has resulted in wide-ranging agendas for practice (e.g. Buchli 2002).

Perhaps because of this diverse potential for archaeological engagement, archaeologists have been influenced by numerous disciplines, notably anthropology and sociology, but also fine art, history, geography, poetry, and so on. It has been argued that archaeologists exist, or more specifically archaeologies are produced, in an undisciplined world (Tilley 2006, 1), where to do archaeology is to privilege an engagement with stuff.

Plural practice can result in subversive, fluid, or heterdox interpretations. Plurality can challenge us, and move us. Pluralist practices can stimulate new insights — into things, inter-relationships between things, and into our individual and cultural conditions. Without neglecting the importance of the study of stuff, we wish to emphasis processes of doing.

This session welcomes discussion of the plural engagements archaeologists can fruitfully make, and exploration of practice in archaeological undertakings. We welcome papers addressing the notion of 'archaeologist' as cultural specialist. What does being an archaeologist mean in contemporary societies? Is being an archaeologist an important form of self-categorisation? — or would we be equally happy/productive/engaged/critical if we regarded ourselves as anthropologists/social scientists/craft practitioners/artists? Are there peculiarly archaeological standpoints?

What's so special about archaeologists anyway?

Accepted papers: