I have postponed for too long updating this blog. Now, that “the work of my life” (a.k.a. my PhD
thesis) is waiting quietly on the table to make its debut in the world (looking way more massive than it seemed on the computer screen), I can get back to sharing random thoughts with the virtual world.
Thus, what better topic to start with than the recent EAA 19th Annual Meeting? I came back with quite a lot of impressions, bits and pieces, so I find it a little hard to write a coherent narrative- they are just bits and pieces: a quote from somebody, a protruding hand from a building in Prague, the memory of an evening out, a French archaeologist and his “bisexual Egyptian lions” studies…Therefore, at a friend’s suggestion, I will simply draw some disparate impressions.
People, nationalities, topics.
If one is to quote the organisers, their conclusions post-conference are summarised as follows:
“We can offer you a very brief summary of the EAA Annual Meeting 2013 in numbers:
- 1397 – total number of registered participants
- 48 – number of countries represented
- Three most represented countries: United Kingdom (179), Czech Republic (148) and Germany (135)
- Besides European Countries were also represented: Australia, Canada, India, Iran, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan.
- There were 977 papers and 196 posters presented within 91 sessions and 26 exhibitors.
- You have been supported by 39 student helpers from Albania, Czech Republic (Hradec Kralove, Pilsen and Prague), India, Serbia and Slovakia.” (http://www.eaa2013.cz/)
These numbers say something and nothing in the same time. Yes, there were a lot of people. But most of them did not get to interact with too many of the others- a mapping of the actual inter-personal relations would have definitely looked less impressive from a numbers point of view. You would get to see a great number of people in the coffee breaks, but the participants would usually speak with their fellow countryman/colleagues, or with those clustered in the same panels as them (panels which would usually group people that already had a common interest and most probably knew each other). Another telling fact in this respect was the way nationalities were reflected in the panel’s topics- (from my experience in the theoretical sessions) namely, the one on Public Archaeology would be British dominated, the one on Biographies or Archaeology of the recent past was dominated by Scandinavians or Brits again, the one on Orders of Knowledge by Germans etc. Of course I do not imply that this was the case everywhere, but it was interesting to see how certain topics attracted certain cultural backgrounds and research traditions. Therefore, 48 countries represented is just a number on the paper.
I have never heard so many times before this the following words: network, agency, entanglement (as I said, I was in the theoretical sessions, so I am not sure which were the “hot” words in the other). Unfortunately, in many cases they were either added as a copy-paste at the end of an interpretation which had nothing to do with them, or they were borrowed without any explanation for the reasons that led to this decision.
I have heard a concept with which I was not familiar, it was very nicely used as part of a biography of a landscape study and I reckon it might be a quite fruitful one: Mikhail Bakhtin’s “chronotopes“, in a paper of a Norwegian archaeologist, Torgrim Sneve Guttormsen ( see the abstract here http://proposal.eaa2013.cz/programme/abstract.php?sessionid=90&paperid=1033).
In the Humanity and Creation session, the discussion got quite interesting, on Heidegger, archaeology, interpretation of the past, humanity, Otherness and agency (again, yes, but this time it was in the proper context, as an evaluation of the “back to things” approach).
A question, of a Swedish researcher: When we write a biography, what should we leave out and why?
A smart interpretative model, involving statistics, ceramics abrasion and spatial distribution to explain depositional patterns, by Ben Edwards (abstract: http://proposal.eaa2013.cz/programme/abstract.php?sessionid=26&paperid=994)
A new working group on Public Archaeology was born (I borrowed their motto-image for this post 🙂 ): http://centralpag.blogspot.ro/
(you can read more about it in a post by one of the founders, Jaime Almansa-Sánchez : http://publicarchaeology.blogspot.com.es/2013/09/post-eaa-2013.html)
Places. Random stuff
We had a choir at the opening ceremony, lovely small parks in Pilsen, great organisation (!) and facilities, lots of bread (also a sweet kind of sliced bread served with a cooked dish, in the sauce), lots of beer.
In short, this is my take on the EAA 2013.