F. Memory, performance and identity in archaeological explorations of space and materiality

Organizer: Debora Trein, University of Texas at Austin

Saturday, May 7th
9:40 – 12:00
Kroeber 160


Archaeologists have sometimes anchored their interpretations on constricted frameworks of how space and objects articulate to fabricate essentialist views of the past.  New theoretical standpoints see space, and its materiality, as the basis on which discussions of an agent’s multiple experiences and perceptions of the world are founded, both in the past and present. This session aims to explore some of these innovative approaches and how they intersect in the examination of memory, performance and identity in the material record, drawing from papers that together embody the global turn in the discipline of archaeology. Organizer email: debora.trein@googlemail.com


The Neolithic Past on an Imaginary Stage

Stella Katsarou, Greek Ministry of Culture & University of the Aegean, stella@stellakatsarou.gr

Within a reconsideration of formalistic typology and selectionism in view of a forthcoming paper on the Greek Neolithic, I would focus on the ‘humanness’ carried by any plain potsherd: the actor is dramatically emerging beyond materiality, and a narrative for an active Potter fills with life the mute Neolithic thingness. The enactment of the Neolithic past on an imaginary stage is seen here not as a simplified spectation of the past, but as an allegory of the agency-and-active-individual theory of the past, and as a symbolic ground where the past can be lived through and recreated by any addressee.

Multilocality and Monumental Spaces in Ancient Maya Society

Debora Trein, University of Texas at Austin, d.trein@mail.utexas.edu

This paper explores the notion of monumentality in ancient Maya society.  It builds upon a theoretical framework grounded in agency theory, landscape archaeology and anthropology, and hermeneutics to propose that monumental spaces were part of a dynamic process of place- and self-formation not only to the elite but, importantly, to commoners as well.  Utilizing a case study from the site of La Milpa, Belize, this paper also suggests that such an inclusive conceptualization of ancient monumental spaces entails an investigation of the totality of activities archaeologically observable within these spaces, including those associated with their construction and maintenance.

Exploring the Physicality of Social Memory

Mara Vejby, University of Reading, m.d.f.vejby@pgr.reading.ac.uk

Social memory is about defining the present and planning for the future within shifting interpretations of the past.  Consequently, physical interactions with ancient sites, whether constructive or destructive, indicate a process of social memory as it is created, altered, and/or controlled.  This process can be seen both in the physical archaeological evidence for the reuse of ancient sites in the past, as well as in the contemporary interactions with these sites in the present.  This paper will explore these connections and their significance while focusing on Iron Age and Roman interactions with megalithic sites in Atlantic Europe.

Entangled Space: Men and the Domestic Sphere

Emily Root-Garey, University of Texas at Austin, georgianstyle@gmail.com

The bifurcation of space into public and private spheres has long characterized the discipline of archaeology. While feminist and gender studies have successfully addressed the physical, socioeconomic, and political influences of women outside the home, within household archaeology men have been largely neglected. Addressing men in domestic contexts requires revisiting the issue of what constitutes “domestic” spaces, activities, and material culture, and questioning gender associations so often unproblematically and unconsciously made in archaeological interpretations of the past. In this paper, I address these issues, focusing on male actors operating within the boundaries of Mexican haciendas during the colonial period.

Three Cities: Thinking Through Embodied Archaeologies with Experiments in Psychogeography

Catherine Zagar, McMaster University, cathamaria@gmail.com

This project aims to find, in the renewed proliferation of psychogeographical practices and attention to urbanism, a space for archaeological experimentation. The provocation and political critique of the urban experience, by way of mentally, socially, and bodily mapping the environment, has become as much a preoccupation with excavating history as a record of the present. I review psychogeographic experiments conducted in three cities geographically, historically, and imaginatively related to the Roman frontier (Durham, Edinburgh, Nijmegen) and propose methods by which to traverse and document the sensory, affective, relational, and ideational traces of the past which complicate urban, historical-archaeological environments.

Ghost Excavations: The Archaeology of the Interactive Past

John Sabol, C.A.S.P.E.R. Research Center, cuicospirit@hotmail.com

Ruins are sites haunted by a palimpsest of past presences, many contained within non-contiguous layers of cultural uncertainty. A ghost excavation is a trans-disciplinary approach combining an archaeological sensibility with performance-based acts. I use contextual (and resonating) cultural scenarios to unearth past interactive memory practices. An example of this field practice is the recovery of traces of inherent military probability of the culture of war on Civil War battlefields. This haunted archaeology, forming part of the current interest in spectral traces, is a rethinking of presence and material remains within symmetrical spaces of unfolding time at those locations considered haunted. I have written 12 books (10 published; two currently at publisher) on performance-based field practices to unearth spectral traces. I call this approach, “Ethnoarchaeoghostology”, an archaeological, ethnographic, and theatrical approach to the unearthing of past memory practices.