April 7th 2017
Archaeology and Theory Conference: Power and Authority – an archaeologist’s friend or foe?
Stichting Archaeological Dialogues (SAD) is a Dutch foundation promoting theoretical archaeology by providing fora such as the annual international Archaeology and Theory symposium (See youtube page for the videos of recent conferences). These one-day conferences are meant as a platform for scholars to discuss their work relating to archaeological theories. In 2017, the conference will take place at Groningen University, Institute of Archaeology . This year’s framework is:
Substantial scholarly effort has been directed towards the identification and study of elites and hierarchies in past societies. The upcoming Archaeology & Theory conference will debate power and authority in past societies and how archaeologist should deal with them. We invite papers to reflect on the following three topics:
From data to hierarchies
Archaeologists have demonstrated a vast variety of methods in order to identify elites. How should we define elites and social inequality? Are power and status reflected in the archaeological record? How do we make the interpretive step from our archaeological data to the social reality of the past? What assumptions guide these theories and are they justified in their considerations? For this session we invite contributions that reflect on bridging the gap between archaeological data and social hierarchies.
Power to the people
Theoretical discussions have conveniently assumed the existence of institutionalised, hereditary leadership. In doing so, a different, more complex and potentially more viable past reality is overlooked. Are Elite-models an excuse to ignore the complex reality of the past by offering a one-fits-all solution to project onto our archaeological data? How do we account for the influence of non-elites on the past? Where does the agency of the lower strata fit in? For this session we invite contributions that reflect on theoretical considerations towards hierarchies and how they potentially distort past social reality.
Selling the elite to a modern audience (translating theory to the public)
Modern (lay) audiences often only encounter archaeology in a museum context, where considerable resources are committed to presenting archaeology. Elites often take a central role in translating complex archaeological debates to concepts that are easily grasped by and evoke the interest of the public. This is often accomplished by displaying shiny objects, which limits the range of stories a museum can convey. How does this influence and reflect on theoretical debates and practice in archaeology?
Key note speaker
Joanna Bruck (Bristol University)
Reader in Archaeology, studies the British Bronze Age, with a longstanding interest in archaeological theory, particularly relational ontologies and phenomenological approaches to archaeological landscapes. She is one of the editors of the Archaeological Dialogues and organizes the Bronze Age Forum. Her recent publications include “The myth of the chief: prestige goods, power and personhood in the European Bronze Age” (with D. Fontijn), published in the Oxford Handbook of the European Bronze Age (2013).
More information is available on the website of Archaeological Dialogues.