Accepted Paper:

Authority and the existence of plurality  


Ben Edwards (University of Liverpool)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper will examine how the 'authority' vested in archaeological interpreters acts to implicitly and explicitly constrain the possibility of plural engagements and interpretations.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper the question of 'who I am' (all or none of: pluralist/archaeologist/scientist) will be addressed, but in a circumambulatory manner, exploring how the nature of authority and plurality act to structure our practice as archaeologists, and thereby who we are. How plurality is understood in archaeology will be briefly explored, before turning to how plurality is expressed in interpretation, both methodologically and as a potential outcome. The position to be advanced here is that interpretative 'authority' (the socially ascribed/individually assumed right to make an interpretation) stands between the goal of plurality and the act of interpreting. Whether defined as the use of concepts taken from other disciplines, or as the involvement of non-archaeologists in interpretation, plurality is almost always subordinate to the authority of a given archaeologist. Power is always exercised that limits plural engagement. So if plurality can be limited, is it actually plurality? Can plurality, therefore, exist?

Panel S38
Pluralist practices: archaeology is nothing, archaeology is everything