Accepted Paper:

Popular culture and archaeological hubris  

Author:

Alice Clough

Paper short abstract:

Popular culture studies has emerged as a lesser known - and often less respected - subset of material and visual culture studies. This paper uses a popular culture case study as the basis for an exploration of why popular culture studies remain a poor analogical resource for understanding the past.

Paper long abstract:

The archaeological record is the result of exchange and collection of visual and artifactual media, and yet our approach to these has often focused on anthropological and philosophical discourses. Popular culture studies has emerged as a lesser known - and often less respected - subset of material and visual culture studies. Within particular disciplinary boundaries, popular culture studies can be seen as shallow, trashy, or irrelevant especially in regards to understanding the sociality of past peoples. As such, these new discourses have struggled to establish a position of perceived legitimacy within the world of archaeology and anthropology and yet they can be used to inform and shape archaeological and anthropological investigations.

This paper draws on recent work within popular culture studies to explore different ways of approaching material culture. It uses the example of the mass consumption of images - to explain how their materiality enables specific forms of collecting and exchanging, or ways of 'world-making', in today's seemingly superficial society of the spectacle (after Debord 1967). These interests converge with archaeology (see Ingold 2000) and yet by drawing epistemological lines around popular culture studies, we ironically identify it as something more 'other' than those past societies we are trying to approach. As such, popular culture approaches to material culture and visual representation remain a poor analogical resource for understanding the past.

Debord, G. (1967) *Society of the Spectacle* Buchet: Paris.

Ingold, T. (2000) Making culture and weaving the world. In P.M. Graves-Brown (ed.) *Matter, Materiality and Modern Culture* pp. 50 -71. London: Routledge.

Panel S14
Drawing epistemological lines in the sand