Archaeology and heritage studies in, of, and after the Anthropocene | Tue Dec 17 09:30:00 | Room 777/80
What does it mean to live in a self-proclaimed “age of humans”? And what is the role of archaeology and heritage studies in the current planetary “crisis” which this age is widely recognised as having heralded? Over the past decade, the “Anthropocene” has stimulated significant comment across archaeology and heritage studies, appearing in a number of different guises--as temporal marker, extinction crisis, human niche, climatological catastrophe, socio-cultural formation, economic and political critique, and posthumanist rallying cry to name but a few. But these debates and discussions have tended to happen in isolation from one another, limiting their usefulness and impeding broader discussion of the significance of the concept for archaeology and heritage studies more generally. The aim of this session is to facilitate interdisciplinary conversations across a broad range of scientific, artistic and humanistic approaches to the Anthropocene (and associated past, present and future environmental and climate related issues) to begin to explore the ways in which archaeology and heritage studies might reorganise themselves to address the new research agendas which such interdisciplinary approaches, and the broader recognition of these associated contemporary planetary crises, urgently demand.
(Please note: themes from this session are continued in the first part of the linked Session 47, Persistent Pasts: Engaging with Conflict Legacies in the Present, which contains a number of Anthropocene/Conflict related papers, and participants are encouraged to resume the discussions by joining that session following this one).
9:30 | Rodney Harrison, University College London
9:35 | Elizabeth Graham, UCL; Lindsay Duncan, UCL; Dan Evans, Lancaster University
Is the Future just a load of Rubbish?
My team and I have been turning attention to what we think is the major environmental crisis to be faced:rates of soil degradation exceed those of soil formation by more than an order of magnitude. Are we doing enough to replenish lost soil? The answer is 'no'.
9:55 | Geneviève Godin, UiT the Arctic University of Norway
Monsters and the Anthropocene: Things in the Grey Zone
The image of the monster has often been harnessed in discussions around planetary crises and threats to the individual – the microplastic invasion, vampire capitalism, Frankenfoods, and so on. The disciplines I aim to bridge are those of the literary and cinematographic arts, and archaeology. How do we extract meaning from the world we live in, if not through our own categories? And how do we explain it to ourselves, if not through the stories we tell? I here wish to address the question of what it means to live in the ‘age of humans’ through a uniquely human construction: that of the monster, as it has been crafted in novels and films.
10:15 | Phil Stastney, MOLA
Scale-framing: an Anthropocene reading of peatland archaeological and palaeoenvironmental datasets
Peatlands across north-western Europe contain both rich archaeological records and sensitive palaeoenvironmental archives, and intuitively these would seem to be able to provide us with much-needed long-term perspectives on human-environment interactions in the recent past. In practice, however, it is still far from clear exactly how these archives should be interpreted, and so the contribution of the peatland ‘archaeo-environmental’ record to discourses around the Anthropocene remains limited. The interpretation of combined archaeological/palaeoenvironmental datasets is complicated by a number of methodological challenges, and as a result there is a profound difficulty defining appropriate spatial and chronological scales of analysis: broad scales risk conflating small-scale trends, whilst at smaller scales the incompleteness and inherent uncertainties of the data become foregrounded. Unsurprisingly, given the inherently interdisciplinary nature of peatland archaeo-environmental investigations, approaches from other disciplines, such as the field of ecocriticism, may offer a way forward. One approach explored in this paper is to attempt an ‘unframed’ reading of peatland archaeological records. Not only may ‘unframing’ circumvent some of the challenges that bedevil the comparison of archaeological and palaeoenvironmental records in general, but it may also provide a means of ‘narrativizing’ these types of datasets, and so contribute to our coming to terms with the Anthropocene.
10:35 | Chris Garrard, Co-director of Culture Unstained / member of BP or not BP?; Malou Den Dekker, member of BP or not BP?
Can we leave it in the ground? Why we must end oil sponsorship together
Since 2012, the activist theatre group BP or not BP? has been creatively intervening in oil-sponsored spaces, urging cultural institutions to redraw their ethical red lines and rule out funding from fossil fuel companies. In recent months, they and others have secured several major wins, bringing about the end of BP’s sponsorship of the Royal Shakespeare Company and Shell’s membership of the National Theatre. Just last month, the Scottish National Galleries also decided that it would no longer host the prestigious BP Portrait Award due to its association with the oil firm, stating publicly that “there is a responsibility to do all we can to address the climate emergency”.
|10:55 | BREAK|
11:25 | Helen Chittock, AOC Archaeology Group
Towards an Archaeology of Repair
Repair is a unique craft, constituting both a form of making and a form of maintenance. The field of ‘repair studies’ is currently emerging within the social sciences, drawing on the material and metaphorical aspects of mending (e.g. Graziano and Trogal 2019). As repair comes to the fore in light of the current geopolitical and environmental concerns of the Anthropocene, calls have been made for a revaluing of the practice (e.g. Dant 2010).
11:45 | Monika Stobiecka, University of Warsaw
The Anthropocene curiosities: prefiguring future archaeological artifacts
Recent debates on heritage in the age of Anthropocene deliver us two main scenarios for the future — the overwhelming technologization as a remedy for the apocalyptic disasters, or the happy Apocalypse, where “all the monsters are welcome”. While the first is based on techno-optimism (or even techno-fetishism), the second recalls the romantic tradition characterized by the appraisal for ruins, destruction, and decay.
12:05 | Koji Mizoguchi, Kyushu University
Detecting the ‘signs’, or how we can conduct archaeologies in a responsible manner for contemporary society
This paper argues that one of the ways to conduct archaeological practices conducted in the epistemological-ontological condition, characterised with the concept/term of ‘Anthropocene’, in a responsible manner for contemporary society is to detect a type of signs that emerged in material culture prior to the rising of social crises/collapses.
12:25 | Rodney Harrison, University College London
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