Sessions:  All complete sessions as of April 15 are listed below.  Please click on the " Individual Paper Abstracts" link associated for each session for full information on the proposed papers for each session.


Session: "Archaeology & Human-Animal Relations: is anthropocentrism an issue?"

 (Individual Paper Abstracts


Brian Boyd, Columbia University


“We polish an animal mirror to look for ourselves” (Haraway, 1991).

In archaeology, as in sociocultural anthropology, the dominant analytical perspective on human-animal relations is ontologically anthropocentric: the study of the human use of nonhuman animals for the benefit of human beings, and scholarly inquiry largely for the sake of elucidating what nonhuman animals can tell us about the human condition.


For more than three decades, ‘beyond nature/culture’ has been a recurring theme in archaeological/anthropological publications, conference papers and classroom discussions. Any survey of the current literature, however, will show that animal-related anthropology is still firmly anthropocentric. Most scholars barely mention the substantial contemporary critical animal studies literature, and pay little more than lip service to the tenacious issues surrounding anthropocentrism and/or speciesism.  Common motifs are Derrida’s cat, and Borges’s fictional animal classification list (invariably by way of Foucault’s preface to The Order of Things), used to demonstrate awareness of, respectively, different alterities and non-Western ways of categorizing animals. And yet, archaeological investigation continually confronts us with ample material contexts that show in no uncertain terms that people in the past routinely classified animals in a myriad of ways different to those of the modern world, but as yet there is little evidence that archaeologists are engaging critically with this literature.


This session invites papers that push forward contemporary archaeology’s – including posthumanist approaches - encounters with animal remains, and evidence for human-nonhuman animal interactions, to explore desired, but maybe unachievable, non anthropocentric/nonspeciesist perspectives.




Session: "And now what? Archaeology as resistance"

(Individual Paper Abstracts)


Yannis Hamilakis ,Joukowsky Institute of Archaeology, Brown University


And now what? This is the anxious question that torments many of us, based in North America, in the present social and political moment, the moment of Trumpism. While as citizens and activists we can mobilise on various fronts, our engagement with materiality and temporality as archaeologists offers us a different perspective, perhaps an important advantage that can prove both intellectually and political fruitful. For a start, we may wish to emphasize duration and continuities as well as ruptures, the historicity of the present moment; stress in other words that current developments bring into sharp relief the long term structural inequalities, the class divides, the colonial present which has never left us, racism, as well the latent nationalism often hiding under “patriotism”, and one which for far too long, archaeologists and other scholars considered as too exotic to be of relevance to North American societies. We may also wish to subject current public and political discourse to scrutiny, foregrounding historical moments and contexts from the past, both the recent as well as the more “distant” one, occasions that belie statements on matters such as migrants and refugees, borders and border walls, human interactions with landscapes, the climatic impact, or the enclosure and destruction of the commons. Further, as specialists on materiality and on things we can produce a forensic and thus highly affective analysis of the material, sensorial and bodily effects of contemporary policies, statements and rhetorical pronouncements. We can dissect and thus demystify the material and sensorial assemblage that produces illegality at borders and checkpoints, that engenders a deportation regime, that shutters and fractures lives, families, and communities. We can disassemble the material apparatus of exclusion and deprivation, and engender the material and sensorial force, the ordinary affects of daily, deeply felt experiences, beyond and against the carefully choreographed and staged spectacles of power. More positively and hopefully, as archaeologists we can provide countless examples where powerful regimes had failed, often spectacularly and monumentally, we can point to the cracks in carefully constructed edifices, we can outline strategies of resilience and resistance. Archaeology can and should provide important lessons in the current climate. We invite archaeologists, archaeologically and materially minded anthropologists, other scholars from all backgrounds to think through collectively the above issues, and to work out together a fluid and flexible strategy for the years to come.




Session: “The Past in the Present: Mediating Cultural Heritage”

(Individual Paper Abstracts)


Ashlee Hart, University at Buffalo, SUNY


ABSTRACT:  Discussions regarding the world’s cultural heritage - what it is, whom it represents, and where it belongs in the discipline – are becoming increasingly critical aspects of anthropological and archaeological work. The work of archaeologists, anthropologists, and museum professionals is beginning to include a more detailed focus on the ways that remnants of the past interact with the contemporary contexts in which they emerge. The ways in which cultural narratives and materials are excavated, interpreted, and presented are all processes of mediation. Archaeologists, heritage managers, and museum professionals often serve as intermediaries between what may have happened in the past and what is currently happening today. Being practiced in diverse regions and with concern for different time periods, such mediation often develops variation in methods of excavation/investigation, research team diversity, and museum storage and exhibit organization. All of these aspects of exposing the past are intimately connected to interpretation. This session proposes to look at the variety of ways that cultural heritage may be mediated by those who expose and study it. How, in their effort to reveal and represent the past, do researchers and heritage managers negotiate the social and political significance of tangible cultural heritage? How can and have social, economic, and political pressures influenced methods of excavation and presentation today and throughout the history of the discipline? Archaeologists, heritage and cultural resource management professionals, anthropologists, and museum specialists are encouraged to reflect critically on their role in dissemination to public audiences. How and by whom archaeological remains and anthropological narratives are excavated influences interpretations, requiring mediation as they are introduced to contemporary social and political climates. Those who study the past must acknowledge its power and work in partnership to reflect on its influence. (Papers will be 2,000-3,000 words, an oral presentation of 15 minutes with 5 minutes for discussion.



Session: “Parsing Posthumanism”

(Individual Paper Abstracts)


Craig N. Cipolla, New World Archaeology, Royal Ontario Museum


Dr. Oliver Harris, Leicester University


ABSTRACT:  Posthumanism encompasses a varied array of theories and critiques from the humanities and social sciences. From new materialisms to object oriented ontologies and from symmetrical archaeologies to new animist approaches, posthumanism’s influences in archaeological theory continue to grow and diversify. Each of these approaches orients around a general commitment to challenging the limitations of modernist, western perspectives on the world. This can entail moving beyond the limitations of assumed human exceptionalism through recognition of the vibrancies of matter and the complex human-nonhuman relationships through which agency emanates. In certain cases, posthumanism involves embracing the ways in which objects withdraw from our knowledge of them and indeed from all relations; in other cases, it urges us to scrutinize how things open us up to the alterity and otherness of the past. In the end, these arguments all ask us to give things “their due.” Archaeologists tend to orient themselves to these ideas in a dualistic fashion: enthusiastic adoption versus outright rejection. The former group is quick to applaud the intellectual binaries that these new approaches reportedly undercut; they celebrate the ways in which various strands of posthumanist thought lead them to new and interesting questions/problems in archaeological theory. The latter group offers sharp critiques of posthumanism, often for its purported lack of engagement with politics, power, identity, representation, and humans in general. Papers in this session reject both of these caricatured propositions, parsing posthumanism in archaeological theory. Presenters probe their own archaeological research specialties and interests to address what aspects of posthumanism work for them, what aspects they feel they must disregard, and what aspects are in need of further archaeological modification. 15-minute papers followed by discussant (15 minutes); number of papers is still to be determined





Session: “Pop Goes the Pot: Archaeology and the Representations of the Past In Different Popular Media Genres”

 (Individual Paper Abstracts)


Alexander Smith, The College at Brockport - State University of New York


Kevin McGeough. University of Lethbridge


ABSTRACT:  The mediation of archaeology through popular culture is one of the fundamental means through which non-specialists have contact with and participate in creating meaning in the discipline. It is a source of both frustration and opportunity for archaeologists and non-specialists alike. This session will continue a dialogue begun in the 2016 TAG Boulder session, Just Google It!, in which scholars working in a variety of disciplines discussed the roles of digital media in popular engagement, public archaeology, educational outreach, and within academic archaeological practice. In that session, presenters and attendees voiced concerns over how the genres of various types of popular media – museum outreach, digital publishing, video games, movies, digital social networks – impacted the representations, public expectations and even practices of archaeology. Different forms of mass media necessitate or facilitate the transformation of academic knowledge in very specific ways to make that knowledge suitable for the consumption practices of different media genres. The goal of this session is to interrogate how the genres of different kinds of popular culture impact the representation of the past and, potentially, archaeological research. How do mass media consumption practices influence the way that archaeological knowledge is understood amongst non-specialists and what impact does this have on archaeological work? Diverse forms of popular culture will be considered, such as video games, children’s literature, and educational displays as will different genres within these forms, such as science fiction, historical fiction, and veristic documentaries. In particular, this session will examine the ways in which popular culture entangles archaeologists and non-specialists and how issues of genre structure that entanglement. It is hoped that archaeologists, cultural critics, and popular media producers can engage in a productive dialogue through this session. Format: The double session will be a collection of 10 papers, each 15 minutes in length, over the course of 2 standard length sessions with a break in between. Each session of 1.5 hours will have 5 speakers with a short panel discussion to conclude.






Session: “Flowing, Morphing, Making: Ontologies of Water in Archaeology”

(Individual Paper Abstracts)


Kacey C Grauer, Northwestern University


Dil Singh Basanti, Northwestern University


ABSTRACT: This session brings together scholars to discuss a substance ubiquitous in our diverse regional backgrounds: water. Contemporary issues such as NODAPL serve as a reminder that water is not neutral, but inseparable from the human experiences of power, ideology, sustenance, identity, conflict, and more. Water is everywhere, in everything, and continuously morphs in and out of different forms. It flows and creates connections, yet it also maintains separations. By these properties, water becomes a substance of possibility: in interacting with water, people are exposed to a medium by which they can extend themselves into new worlds. Water can be a means through which humans exercise power over one another – rulers reaffirming their divinity by bringing rain in times of drought, or congress passing bills to control water flows of communities. Water can also be an index of sociality – the gathering place for weary travelers at the oasis, or the reservoir of a “chief” from where people enter into “civilization” from lawless lands. It can be a veil over parts unknown, hiding monsters or passages to the underworld, or it can be the medium of contact and trade – an open ocean as an index of freedom or opportunity for those landlocked into stagnation. But water can also be violent, destroying homes or bringing slavery, and ending worlds altogether. Through these materialities, water can become many different things and generate many different realities for the people it engages. Watery landscapes and flowscapes allow us to access these ontologies in the past. As water does not fit neatly in the category of natural or cultural, it may be an ideal medium to challenge Cartesian dualisms and explore relational ontologies. Water defies several binaries: functional and ritual, passive and active, natural and supernatural, static and fluid, visible and invisible, present and absent. Water permeates all things, even troubling the human/nonhuman dichotomy and boundedness of the body. Papers in this session will consider water in light of indigenous rights, political ecology, relational ontologies, materiality, and its agentive capacities. We also invite papers that consider how current day ontologies of water influence archaeological interpretations of the past. Session format: each presenter will have 20 minutes: 15 minutes to present their paper and 5 minutes to answer questions. Subject to change based on participation numbers.





Session: “A thing, a First Nations elder, and an archaeologist walk into a museum, “I think it is time to make some changes around here.”: reevaluating perceptions of material culture”

(Individual Paper Abstracts)


Steven Gordon Dorland, University of Toronto


Sarah Ranlett, University of Toronto


ABSTRACT: Archaeologists hold a privileged position of scholarly and scientific authority as interpreters of the material past. How archaeologists perceive of material culture or cultural materials has changed throughout the span of archaeological thought, shaped by shifting scholarly mores, methodological expediencies, and historical contingencies. This has resulted in developing a sense of multi-vocality to address voices of the past actors and current stakeholders that may have previously been unheard. In light of this, there is a growing need to critically evaluate traditional theoretical models and frameworks of analysis, curation, and presentation of past objects in order to take these different, and sometimes diverging points of view into consideration. This session will address the nature of these changing and diversifying perceptions of artifacts as well as propose avenues to further incorporate these alternate material perceptions into archaeological practice. This is a general paper session


Session Length: Organizers are free to decide how the time will be used (e.g., whether discussion slots will be added and the length of individual papers), although we suggest 15-20 minute long papers. Sessions can either be 1.5 hours long or a double session: 1.5 hours, seven 15 minute papers and a 15 minute discussion period at the end of the session.





Session: The Space Between: Beyond Environments and Ecologies as Mediators”                         

(Individual Paper Abstracts)


Gabrielle Borenstein, Cornell University


Lucy Gill, University of California, Berkeley


ABSTRACT: The environment has long been conceived of within anthropology as a mediator of social practices and material culture. However, this view rests on the assumption that the social and ecological are distinct -- and separable -- spheres when they are in fact relationally co-constructed and always in flux. How then are we to discuss this inextricable permeation of the environment into past and present human experiences and vice versa? This session explores how cultural landscapes are constructed by and through features of the natural world, as well as, from a historical ecology perspective, the fundamentally anthropogenic nature of landscape itself. It expands the breadth of archaeological inquiry beyond sites as they are traditionally defined to incorporate the space between in which people farm, travel, hunt, and gather. Spatiotemporal situations that bridge multiple environments and ecologies can facilitate unique identities and often serve pivotal roles in the development of power relations. Such loci are especially well suited to provide insight into the active properties of environments and ecologies that move beyond mediation. For example, features such as waterways, mountains, and caverns can possess symbolic potential and facilitate integral sociopolitical activity, as well as occasionally introduce instances of disaster. Building upon notions of “entanglement” put forth Latour (2005) and Hodder (2012), this session will move beyond the anthropocentric to embrace an “ecology of others” (Descola 2013), which involves but is not limited to landscape construction and networks of interaction between humans and animals, plants, geologies, soils, and other actors traditionally classified as “natural.” Papers may examine how the environment is inscribed in cultural practice through the lens of culturally constructed material remains and ecofact assemblages. Participants are invited to explore patterns and/or discrepancies between representations and material manipulations of the “natural” world and the semiotic properties and utility of (re)presenting environments in cultural practice, as well as the ways in which traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) constitutes and is constituted by social, political, and ritual lives.





Session: "Being Present, Getting on Together: Re-Opening Foreclosed Futures and Making Life in Ruins.”

(Individual Paper Abstracts)


Lee Bloch, University of Virginia.


Macario Garcia, University of Virginia


ABSTRACT: How do old and durable materialities draw people into the present as a space for attending to historical trauma? Who and what animates ruined worlds supposedly devoid of life and foreclosed of futurity? Contemporary public anxieties about toxicity, disaster, and climate change—political realities and capitalistic fantasies of futures dominated by apocalyptic wastelands—frame the future as something alternately possessed or dispossessed of; as private property and as foreclosed upon. Many worry these wastelands will wreak havoc and ruin bodies, eradicating and irradiating life and creating mutant ecologies and denuded landscapes. Most powerfully and painfully, these possessive futures obscure those already feeling the uneven effects of capitalist, colonial, and heteropatriarchal ecologies in the present, those who already live in their ancestor’s apocalyptic futures (Whyte 2017). The past is not something over and done with and the future is not something that some people have and others are dispossessed of. Who, then, breathes life into ruins and wastelands (and artifacts)? How do divergent pasts and futures co-emerge when, for example, Indigenous people gift historic beads with each other and ancestral bones, when someone looks for a certain plant or nourishment in decaying buildings, or when a mountain seen through a prison window provides a reminder that life still exists. And are ruins given new life only by humans, or also by plants, insects, rivers? Drawing on Walter Benjamin’s “now-time” (Jetztzeit), Rodney Harrision’s (2011) outlines an “archaeology in and of the present” that “gathers up” the past within the present. Old materialities, in this sense, are not only “of the past” but continue to animate the present. In gathering up the past to be present with historical wounds, how can the present also become a space of caring and healing? How can we get on together, making life and imagining alternative futures within ruins of pasts that were supposed to be foreclosed and over with? We encourage papers that help us think through these and other questions as it relates to archaeological scholarship and practices.




Haraway, Donna. 2016. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Durham: Duke University Press.


 Harrison, Rodney. 2011. “Surface Assemblages: Towards an Archaeology in and of the Present.” Archaeological Dialogues 18(2):141-61.


Whyte, Kyle Powys. 2017. “Our Ancestors’ Dystopia Now: Indigenous Conservation and the Anthropocene. Routledge Companion to the Environmental Humanities, edited by Ursula Heise, Jon Christensen, and Michelle Niemann. New York: Routledge.




Session: "Mediation in archaeology, anthropology and art history"

(Individual Paper Abstracts)


Carl Knappett, Department of Art, University of Toronto


ABSTRACT : Current social theory may be adept at writing about the vitality of things, but it arguably lags behind in its treatment of the connections between things (Appadurai 2015). Many would agree to call the first of these ‘materiality’, though the term Appadurai uses for the second—‘mediation’—has (for the moment) far less currency. Whether we choose to style these connectivities as mediation or some other term, we can perhaps agree with Appadurai that materiality is simply the other side of the relationship. What this session proposes is an exploration of this other side of the coin to materiality. Contributors may wish to use Appadurai’s idea of mediation (and mediants), or indeed other concepts that arguably do similar work. These may include entanglement, network, assemblage, or indexicality, among others. It is hoped that contributions may cover a wide disciplinary range across archaeology, anthropology, and art history.





Session: "Navigating the Night of First Ages: Interpreting Frontiers in Archaeological Contexts"

(Individual Paper Abstracts)


 Erika Ruhl,  University at Buffalo GIS Social Systems Laboratory


Christopher Troskosky



ABSTRACT: “We couldn't understand because we were too far... and could not remember because we were traveling in the night of first ages, those ages that had gone, leaving hardly a sign... and no memories.” ― Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness Archaeological frontiers are constructed as areas of cultural mediation, functioning either as socially constructed buffering areas between different cultural zones or intentionally constructed areas which are located between known zones, zones which are known to be unknown, and zones in which it is known there are dragons. Frontiers act as a geographic membranes or mediums, actively mediating interaction between the “Familiar” and the “Other”. Frontier studies in archaeology have traditionally been informed by core-periphery approaches. Such interpretations are structured to assert the theoretical construction of the unidirectional movement of technology, ideas, and practices from regions viewed as central outward to an ever-advancing frontier. Critiqued as being overly simplistic and intrinsically colonial, this approach discounts multidirectional flow of information, practices (Lightfoot and Martinez 1995) as well as the dynamic, mercurial, and intentional nature of archaeological frontier zones. (Parker and Rodseth, 2005). This session presents recent research on the dynamic nature of archaeological frontiers zones. Papers presented will examine the ways these areas act as a membranes or mediums for cultural and material interactions on the macro (i.e. international, national, kingdom, nation-state) and micro (i.e. fences, private property, urban/rural) scales, and how archaeological understandings of the “Familiar” intrinsically mediate our understanding of the “Other” in archaeological frontier zones. Submissions examining archaeology on modern frontiers, the history of frontiers or “the Frontier”, both in archaeological thought and in general, are also welcomed. (Oral presentations of 15 minutes. Presentations will be followed by 5 minutes for general discussion.) Conrad, J., 1995. Heart of darkness. In Joseph Conrad: Three Novels (pp. 1-91). Macmillan Education UK. Lightfoot, K.G. and Martinez, A., 1995. Frontiers and boundaries in archaeological perspective. Annual Review of Anthropology, 24(1), pp.471-492. Parker, B.J. and Rodseth, L. eds., 2005. Untaming the Frontier in Anthropology, Archaeology, and History. University of Arizona Press.




Session:  "Archaeology and Settler Colonialism"

(Individual Paper Abstracts)


Kristen Bos,  University of Toronto, Department of Anthropology



ABSTRACT: On the blog for their journal, Settler Colonial Studies, editors Edward Cavanagh and Lorenzo Veracini define settler colonialism as “a global and transnational phenomenon, and as much a thing of the past as a thing of a present” (2010). It is important to note here that settler colonialism is not colonialism. As Kēhaulani Kauanui (2016) reminds us, settler colonialism is “a structure, not an event” but settler colonial forms can operate within colonial forms as well as subvert and replace them. In archaeological thought, settler colonialism takes form in uncontested practices and categories, a lack of self-reflexivity, and the privileging of scientific thought over Indigenous Thought etc. What does settler colonialism mean to/for archaeologists? How does settler colonialism operate within archaeological practice and thought? How do we recognize the phenomenon of settler colonialism in the field and across sites (i.e., Canada, Peru, Israel, Aotearoa etc.)? How does the language we use as archaeologists (i.e., categorizations, analogies, narratives etc.) implicate us in the ongoing settler colonial project? Other questions might address: capitalism, gender, Indigenous Thought, decolonization, political temporalities, power and ritual, spatial constructs, White Supremacism, knowledge production. Since there is no blueprint for unsettling settler colonialism or decolonization, this session requires diverse voices but has no preference for medium: papers/stories, poems, performance pieces etc. are all welcome and encouraged. Submissions should be kept to approx. 15 minutes in length with 5 minutes for questions.




Session:  "The Scale of Things: Miniature Objects in Relation to the Body, Geography, and Each Other"

(Individual Paper Abstracts)


Paula Gheorghiade, Department of Art, University of Toronto


Rachel Dewan, Department of Art, University of Toronto


Elana Steingart, Department of Art, University of Toronto


ABSTRACT: If the medium is the message, what does it mean if the medium is miniature? The manipulation of scale — miniaturization relative to the human body, to the inhabited landscape, or to an ‘original’, whether real or abstract — is an aspect of artifact materiality that is receiving increased attention thanks to anthropology’s material turn. Miniatures afford a particular manner of human-object interaction. They can be kept close, but also mobile: intimate, but also dispersed. The intimacy of small things is arguably an expression of what Appadurai calls a ‘two-sided’ process of mediation: objects are formed in a manner that embodies the ideas they are meant to materialize, but also afford a specially close relationship by virtue of their size and portability. The manipulation of scale can occur at the level of the singular object, but can also be considered in terms of expansion: on the level of inter-regional mobility and connectivity, with multiples distributed across space. Their portability enables meaning to be mediated socially, culturally, and spatially. It is evident both in the decisions of the object makers and users, and in present day mediations of archaeological analysis of the material record. If miniaturization is a mode of mediation, how does it transform social organization and human cognition? We invite papers that explore the intersection between scale and cognition, particularly in regard to miniaturization; the relationship between the scale of objects, and the scale of their dispersal across landscapes; and the mediation of technology and archaeological data including data visualization, modelling, and data management. Session Format: Papers should be 15 minutes in length, and 5 minutes will be allotted to questions after each presentation. Format subject to change based on volume of submissions received. Final format will be confirmed after all papers have been accepted.



Session: "A Philosophical Marriage: Archaeology and Science"

 (Individual Paper Abstracts)


Fan Zhang, IHPST (Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology)  University of Toronto


ABSTRACT: Archaeology and science have a relatively long and happy marriage. From radiocarbon dating, dendrochronology, palaeontology, paleopathology, artifact analysis to the use of microscopy, radiography, aerial photographs, GIS and now 3-D printing, drone and VR, science is an indispensable part of archaeology while archaeology is a legitimate member in the family of science. While archaeology’s love affair with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is being reignited with the introduction of new digital technologies and new methods of quantification and visualization, the study of modern science and technologies itself is moving gradually away from conventional narratives, acquiring an increasingly deep archaeological sensibility. Contemporary classics in the field of history of science such as Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer’s study of the origin of experimental science Leviathan and Air-Pump (1985), David Kaiser’s study of quantum physics Drawing Theories Apart: The Dispersion of Feynman Diagrams in Postwar Physics (2005) and Hasok Chang’s revisionist history of chemistry Is Water H2O? (2012) are infused with visual, spatial, physical and contextual sensibilities familiar to archaeologists. In philosophy of science, the talk of scientific laws and the debate between realists and anti-realists are little by little replaced by the talk of mediating and synthetic power of structure and model, two concepts archaeologists deeply understand on many levels. A few questions immediately arise: (1) Is the marriage of archaeology and science necessarily an asymmetric one? In other words, is archaeology necessarily a net beneficiary of other sciences? How can archaeology contribute to science in general on the philosophical, methodological and technical levels? (2) What’s archaeology’s position in modern science? (3) How is archaeology informed not only by science but also by philosophy of science? New Archaeology’s allegiance to logical empiricism is well known, so are the subsequent impacts of structuralism and phenomenology on archaeology. The question is whether we can expand this rather short timeline to have a comprehensive view of the parallel development of archaeology and philosophy since the early modern period if not further? (4) How has modern archaeology informed by non-Western philosophies? (5) How has non-Western archaeology informed by native philosophy? (6) What’s the philosophical and methodological implications of archaeology’s use of digital technologies? Other possible topics open for discussion: archaeological entities in the realism debate in philosophy; explanation, interpretation and exegesis; experimental methods in archaeology; experiments versus observation; simulation in archaeology; model thinking in archaeology; archaeology and diagrams; visual methods of archaeology; archaeological semiotics; cybernetics and archaeology; archaeology and psychology, etc.




Session: "The dead and the living: where is archaeological theory today?"

(Individual Paper Abstracts)


 Zoë Crossland, Columbia University


Shannon Novak, Syracuse University


ABSTRACT: In the theoretical ferment of the early Processual and then Post-processual archaeologies, mortuary evidence played a primary role, whether in the Binford-Saxe program of research, or the post-processual emphasis on the politics of funerary practice, and the social construction of the body. The vibrant theoretical interest in mortuary archaeology was also sustained through the work of feminist scholars and their attention both to the construction of gender and the effects of lived practice on the body.


In recent years there have been great leaps in the range and accuracy of scientific techniques available to archaeologists, opening up new perspectives on the mortuary assemblage. The effects of NAGPRA and related legislation have also shifted how researchers orient themselves to human remains and to descendant communities and other stakeholders. The expansion of the field of forensic archaeology has also opened an important and high profile new field of practice.


How do we see the role of mortuary studies today in the development of archaeological theory? What are the major contributions to archaeological debates that are currently emerging from the study of mortuary contexts, and where might we challenge the field to go? Recent programmatic statements in archaeological theory that deal with questions of with materiality and ontology seem to be focused primarily on artifacts rather than human remains. Why might this be, and what might mortuary archaeology offer to the debate? Papers are welcomed on any area of mortuary archaeology and theory.






Session:  " Temporalities of Infrastructure: Mediation, Durability and Impermanence in Urban Landscapes"

 (Individual Paper Abstracts)


Alison Damick, Columbia University


Samantha Fox, Columbia University


ABSTRACT: Conceptions of the urban are inextricably bound up with the management and distribution of resources. Cities are, at their core, mediators of resource collection, commodification, restriction, and distribution—conduits for labor, materials, and natural resources. This panel investigates the urban as a vehicle of mediation, and responds to the ways in which the infrastructural turn in anthropology has ushered in new ways of thinking about the layering of material and ideological structures. Following Larkin’s call that infrastructures “need to be analyzed as concrete semiotic and aesthetic vehicles oriented to addressees” (Larkin 2013: 329), we address the temporal, affective, and often palimpsestic experience of infrastructures. As vehicles of both material and meaning, infrastructures bear upon the tension between the perceived natural—the resources that they work on—and the perceived cultural—the frameworks in which those resources are utilized, as well as the tension between the short term—in which they are used—and the long term—in which they are imagined to be (or archeologically, to have been) useful. Indeed, the urban landscape is a landscape of infrastructures. But, when attention is directed towards the mediant instead of the mediated, as Appadurai (2015) urges, what is it that constitutes and makes available the material as a resource? This session examines how infrastructures both create and emerge in response to the layering of temporalities, materials, and scales of urban resource mediation, and the tension between contingency and durability, such as they exist between and within nature-cultures. This session brings together scholars working across millennia to address the variability and contingency inherent to human interactions with the material world, and the various scales and perspectives that coexist in urban environments. 15 minute papers with discussion time reserved at the end.