Institute of Archaeology



Persistent Pasts: Engaging with Conflict Legacies in the Present | Tue Dec 17 14:00:00 | Room 777/80

Conflict both destroys and creates on a local and global scale, reconfiguring existing landscapes, power structures, beliefs and practices, and in the process forges - and often enforces - new and distinctive human-thing relationships.This session invites papers focussing on the reuse of material cultures and/or landscapes of conflict from prehistory to the present day. The session welcomes, but is not limited to, contributions covering themes such as transformation and (re)appropriation of landscapes and objects, material persistence, material/human resistance, destruction/creation of lifeworlds, human/non-human entanglements, conflicts over natural and cultural resources, conflicts in and over the Anthropocene, and practices of recycling within conflict or post-conflict settings. Papers proposing new theoretical and conceptual approaches to living with and transforming conflict legacies are particularly encouraged, as are contributions which draw on materials and case studies from a range of different contexts, including indigenous and non-Western perspectives.(Please note: the first half of this session picks up themes from the linked Session 46: Archaeology and Heritage Studies in, of and after the Anthropocene, and participants are encouraged to attend both sessions to facilitate discussion between and across them).

Session timetable
14:00 | Esther Breithoff, Birkbeck, University of London

Session Introduction

14:05 | Emma Waterton, Western Sydney University; Hayley Saul, Western Sydney University

Ghosts of the Anthropocene: Spectral Accretions at the Port Arthur Historic Site

As a place of heritage, the Port Arthur Historic Site in Tasmania, Australia, provides a substantial representation of a colonial landscape composed of the material remains of many pasts and many lives. Principally associated with Australia’s convict history, the vestiges that are found there today take the form of extant buildings, shorelines, cemeteries, walls, garden beds, exercise yards and punishment cells. Port Arthur is also thought to harbour less-tangible residues of its pasts in the form of ghostly apparitions and atmospheres. Indeed, it is often referred to as being one of the most haunted places in Australia. This sense of ‘haunting’ plays a powerful role when it comes to making connections between the physical spaces in which visitors stand and what is known to have happened there. Rather than focus on the supernatural traces of deviant criminals once imprisoned at Port Arthur, however, this paper will take a broader account of ‘ghosts’. To do so, the paper will draw on work emerging from the environmental humanities, such as Deborah Bird Rose’s (2013) notion of a ‘dark Anthropocene’ or ‘Anthropocene noir’, and the work of Anna Tsing et al. (2017) in their volume theArts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene. Using the framework of ‘spectral accretions’, we will illustrate the ecological interrelations between human and non-humans in the Anthropocene by describing our attempts at a multispecies ethnographyat Port Arthur in 2017. In particular, we will look to the abiding presence of ‘arboreal-others’ in order to re-enliven our understanding of Port Arthur’s pasts and re-imagine the role of these more-than-human protagonists in shaping its present and potential futures.

14:25 | Anatolijs Venovcevs, UiT The Arctic University of Norway

Repairing Towards… Living with Landscapes Scars

The second half of the twentieth century witnessed an acceleration of resource exploitation in the northern and remote regions of the world. These developments employed military-like organization, justified through patriarchal and militaristic jargon, while ostracizing the local Indigenous peoples from their land. Thus, this drive for resource exploitation can be seen as a form of conflict by the colonizing southern national interests against northern environments and their people. However, the high hopes and ambitions for creating new, colonized norths fell short with the late twentieth-century collapse of the social and economic systems that conceived these developments. While many of the resource extractive communities remain in place, holding on to existence by perpetuating their single-industry purpose, they live in and amongst the landscape ruins of vestigial development.

This paper will present results from the recent fieldwork from two post-industrial landscapes – the abandoned quartzite quarry of Rizh-Guba (Риж-Губа) near Monchegorsk, Murmansk Oblast’, Russia; and the former mining and quarrying pits in western Labrador, Canada. The discussion will focus on fusing Anna Storm’s concept of post-industrial landscape scars with the recent theoretical work coming out of Canada regarding mine remediation and relations of care. By positioning life in and amongst industrially scarred landscapes, we can theorize about potential futures in these places; futures that go beyond remediation and technocratic fixes and toward a constant state of repair, redevelopment, and relationship building between humans, plants, animals, and things within landscapes scarred by resource extraction.

14:45 | Oladimeji Oluwadamilare Salami, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria; Veronica Oluwatobi Afenkhena , Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria

Political power, migration and modernity: archaeological exploration into Nigeria’s socio-politico-economic present

Nigeria’s civil war of 1967 to 1970 is arguably the bloodiest catastrophe in the history of the nation. After a series of peaceful negotiations had failed, a particular section of the country had resorted to military action for its secession. However, the great significance of the event is not in the body count but the material contexts of its occurrence as well as its pre- and post- histories. Moreover, while the event can be securely consigned to history, its effects on the political system of the nation and migration are there for all to see. The current lack of trust among the constituent tribes, which leads to perennial constitutional breakdown, has taken its stem from the seemingly-forgotten 1967-1970 events. Ever since then, the seceding tribe has always complained of being marginalised in the sharing of political powers and in the distribution of economic dividends. This paper explores the archaeological facts of the present, documenting the transformation of some cities affected by the war. In this presentation, we propose that a critical historical archaeology can contribute substantially to a nuanced understanding of the ironic socio-politico-economic development of a nation. Contradiction, sovereignty, governmentality, states of exception, surplus enjoyment, cycles of creative destruction and reterritorialisation, renewal, and subjectivation are explored by juxtaposing, grafting and merging archaeological evidence with social theory, textual evidence, ethnographic data and interdisciplinary scholarship to present an archaeological history greater than the sum of its parts.

15:05 | Israel Hinojosa Baliño, Durham University

Icxitoca: From conjectural paradigm to retrospective predictions

In this paper, I will talk about the retrospective predictions and the word icxitoca, and how we as archaeologists could use this term in an intrinsic relationship between society, conflict and academia.

I am proposing to use the Nahuatl word “icxitoca” (pr. ikʃitokɑ) to refer to “tracking something down” or “to obtain something by conducting research”, which is what Carlo Ginzburg refers to as “making retrospective predictions”. This is both a tribute to the high number of people looking for their missing relatives in Mexico that are using forensic and archaeological methods to find them in a context of political upheaval and crime, as well as a conceptual approach that can be used in archaeology. Using a Nahuatl word instead of a Latin, Greek or German one, is also an act of decolonization to encourage researchers to find among non-Western concepts a terminology that better encapsulates their scientific endeavour. In this case, I propose a Nahuatl word that encapsulates the concept of paradigma indiziario (in English translated as conjectural paradigm) proposed by Ginzburg.

Historian Miguel León Portilla once wrote, “When a tongue dies […] humanity is impoverished”; by using terminology that is found in other languages different from those that are recurrent in science (e.g. Latin), not only we decolonise science but make it more human and universal.

15:25 | BREAK
15:55 | John Winterburn, University of Oxford

Shankill Poppies: defining an urban conflict landscape

Shankill Road is a major thoroughfare that runs west from Belfast city. It bisects what has been described as a working-class area that rapidly expanded during the growth of the Belfast linen industry in the 19th century.

It is an urban conflict landscape that maintains a collective memory of twentieth-century conflict. Its residents sent their sons to fight and die for the 36th Ulster Division on the Somme in 1916. Hundreds lost their lives during a devastating Luftwaffe raid during Easter 1941, and it was the epicentre of Loyalist paramilitarism and a focus for terrorist bombings and shootings during The Troubles (1968-1998).

This paper theorises a visitors perspective of how conflict is remembered and memorialised along the Shankill Road and its hinterland, and it focusses on the poppy, the ‘universal symbol of remembrance and memory’. There are many representations of this flower along the Shankill Road; perhaps more than any other street, appearing in wreaths, cemeteries, roadside memorials, crosses and on murals. Like countless other places in the UK and Western Europe, it is used to remember people, places and events.

However, here, the representation of the poppy is evolving and is used in an urban landscape to legitimise combatants killed on ‘active service’ in sectarian conflict and to remember those slain by adversaries. It has been used to characterise an urban landscape that asserts the identity of Shankill as British, protestant and monarchist.

16:15 | marjolijn kok, Independent researcher/Bureau Archeologie en Toekomst

Single places harbouring multiple conflicts; hidden by design, remembered selectively

After the decolonisation of Indonesia, over 12.000 Moluccans were shipped to the Netherlands and put into about 90 camps (woonoorden). Most of the men were part of the colonial army (KNIL) and their families accompanied them. The plan was they would return to the Moluccan islands in a few months. But due to the aftermath of decolonisation and Dutch politics it turned out that they would stay in the camps for many years or even decades and most would never return.

In this paper I want to discuss how the camps were not placed in neutral places but in spaces with a history encompassing different conflict situations. When researching the Moluccan camps this history should not be left out. How and why most camps were originally built, their use during and directly after the Second World War is essential for understanding them now. The layered conflict histories of these camps are not remembered in the same manner. An hierarchy of suffering is put into place which privileges certain groups. This hierarchy of memorialisation is however not necessary. Different narratives that are remembered in different ways, may do more justice to all the groups involved. Recognisition of suffering but also of joy as many called these camps their home is not an easy process. Balancing this scale might give a better insight into how the colonial period has influenced our present society.

16:35 | Jacques Aymeric Nsangou, University of Geneva

Antagonistic evolution of two elements of an African fortification in Foumban, West Cameroon

At the beginning of the 20th century, the penetration of European colonizers into the African hinterland continued and resulted in a ban: Africans were no longer allowed to wage war against each other as in the past. Then, all the endogenous fortifications and defensive structures, which had been built in the context of the inter-African conflicts, were either destroyed completely or fell into disuse. This is the case of the fortifications of Foumban, a pre-colonial town in western Cameroon, whose defensive structures were never used again after the arrival of the Germans in this locality in April 1902. Consisting of a wall, innumerable pitfalls and two ditches; one of which surrounded the city, these defensive structures have undergone an entirely different evolution. Meanwhile ditches, pitfalls and the wall have been destroyed or abandoned in some areas whereas one of the main gates of the wall has undergone several renovations by the Bamun people.

Our paper, which is a case study, aims to briefly present the "life" of Foumban's Bamun fortifications since 1902. We will insist on the choices of the collective memory of the Bamun community which, at the same time as it destroys some of the artifacts of its warfare past, chosen to value only one of these elements.

16:55 | Session organisers


17:30 | END